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Children’s Health: Abdominal Pain in Children

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Professor Lovat
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Please note, this blog is for information only. At the London Gastroenterology Centre we do not currently treat patients under the age of 16 years.

Most children will complain about an upset stomach at some point in their life, and for the most part, it’s not something that parents need to worry too much about. Children are often eating things that they shouldn’t, or eating too many sweets and fizzy drinks – all things that may give them an upset stomach. It can be both frightening and frustrating for parents, as it’s hard for them to see their children in pain and not know the cause.

For those children who have persistent abdominal pain – it’s always worth getting it checked out by a professional. There are certain signs, symptoms and considerations that you can look for and think of when deciding how serious your child’s pain is.

There are a number of different health problems that could be the cause for your child’s stomach complaint. These include:

  • Bowel problems – This could include IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), constipation or colic.
  • Surgical problems – This includes problems such as appendicitis and bowel obstruction – they can often be serious and always need medical attention.
  • Food related problems – Eating too much food, eating something they are allergic to, eating food that is out of date or food poisoning – all factors that could result in an upset stomach.
  • Medical problems – Gastroenteritis or bladder infections are often a big cause of why children suffer with repeated abdominal pain.

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IBS and children

Children suffering from IBS can often be frustrated and embarrassed – especially those who are of school age and have to deal with it whilst at school. IBS is a grouping of symptoms that occur at the same time, most commonly abdominal pain and diarrhoea.  

A child is often diagnosed with IBS after they suffer abdominal pain at least once a week, for two months, without any other reasons for doing so. Whilst not common in children, it does still affect around 20%. The main things to look out for are:

  • A change in stools – whether it occurs less or more than usual
  • A stool that is loose and watery, or stools that are hard and lumpy
  • The feeling that bowel movements haven’t finished – are incomplete.

There are several causes of IBS in children. This includes:

  • Hypersensitivity – Children with IBS are often those who have a greater sensitivity to abdominal pain. It’s likely that they will have a different rectal tone and motor response after meals.
  • Bacterial gastroenteritis – This is an infection or irritation of both the stomach and intestines – caused by bacteria.
  • Genetics – Whilst not scientifically proven, there is a link between children who have IBS and whether it runs in their family.

There is no cure for IBS, but it can be treated through; a change in the diet, medications and probiotics.

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Appendicitis and children

If your child suffers from a stomach ache that doesn’t seem to be going away, or lasts more than a day – you should seek medical help. It often begins in the belly button area, and spreads to the lower right abdominal area. It’s most common in people between the ages of 10-19, and occurs when an abdominal infection spreads to the appendix or there is a build up that is blocking the appendix.

There are specific symptoms that accompany abdominal pains when it comes to appendicitis. These are:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Fever
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Inability to pass gas

Appendicitis often results in a surgical procedure which removes the appendix – it’s very important that this is done before the appendix erupts, as this can be extremely dangerous.

Gastroenteritis and children

Gastroenteritis in children is often caused by a virus called rotavirus – an infection in a child’s stomach and bowel. This virus is contagious and can be passed on easily to other children.

The main symptoms of gastroenteritis is vomiting and diarrhoea, but can often be accompanied by a high fever. It should pass within a few days, but you should seek medical attention if it lasts longer than 1 week.

If you suspect that your child’s abdominal pain is a symptom of something more serious, it’s important that you seek medical advice straight away.

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If you’re over the age of 16 and suffering from abdominal pain, or any digestive problems, we can offer you sensible advice here at The London Gastroenterology Centre. We also offer private Endoscopy in London which can help diagnose any problems.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 020 7183 7965.

 

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