Tummy ache in children is common. Most children do not require treatment and the pain will get better by itself.
- Common causes of tummy ache include constipation, a water works infection (urinary tract infection) and tummy bugs (gastroenteritis).
- Less common causes include appendicitis. Most children with chronic abdominal pain never have a cause found.
In this video a GP and health visitor talk about what they would look out for in a child with abdominal pain:
When should I worry and what should I do?
Call 999 or go to A&E now if your child:
Becomes pale and floppy
Becomes drowsy or difficult to wake
Vomits with blood
Bright red or dark brown, or bile (dark green – the colour of spinach or sprouts)
Develops severe pain despite pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
Has testicular pain in boys
Call 111 or ask for an urgent GP appointment if your child:
Develops a swollen tummy
Has blood in their poo or wee
Experiences constant pain for more than 1 day despite painkillers
Has a fever or symptoms continuing for more than 5 days
Becomes increasingly thirsty or is weeing significantly more or less than normal
Develops yellow skin or eyes
Has weight loss for no known reason
Get general advice on the NHS website or from your local Pharmacy if your child:
Develops diarrhoea and vomiting but none of the above symptoms
Experiences pain associated with menstruation in a girl (periods)
Is frequently constipated
- Offer your child a normal diet and plenty of fluids
- Give them pain relief such as paracetamol (calpol) and/or ibuprofen
- If their pain is not controlled with simple pain relief, if they develop jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), have a swollen tummy, are peeing more or less than usual or have blood in their poo or wee, you should arrange for them to be seen urgently by a medical practitioner. Call your GP surgery or NHS 111.
- If your child also has runny poos (diarrhoea), try to avoid them getting dehydrated (see diarrhoea and vomiting information sheet).
How long will your child’s symptoms last?
- The duration of your child’s symptoms will depend on the cause of their abdominal pain
- If they are constipated, their pain may improve once they have had a poo
- If they have gastroenteritis, it may last several days but can take up to 2 weeks to resolve
Where should you seek help?
- If it is non-urgent, speak to your local pharmacist or health visitor
- Or contact you GP practice and a qualified member of the clinical team will assess if your child needs to be seen urgently. For an urgent out-of-hours GP appointment, call NHS 111
- You should only call 999 or go your nearest A&E department in critical or life threatening situations