In adults, abdominal pain can range from a mild ache to acute (sudden onset) pain. Many organs might contribute to the symptoms and it can be difficult to diagnose the cause or source of the pain.
In children, a “tummy ache” could indicate an emergency condition caused by blockage, infection with viruses or bacteria, food reactions, certain insect bites, poisoning from ingestion or even appendicitis. It could also simply be the result of anxiety or a stressful situation your child is experiencing.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can have abdominal discomfort attributed to a number of causes. Age and history typically help your healthcare professional arrive at a diagnosis. It is important to be evaluated by a physician to eliminate any potential life threats and to help you understand from where your discomfort may be coming.
Abdominal pain from gas might be relieved by lying face down. Peppermint tea might relieve the symptoms, but the patient should resist eating until the bloating subsides or a good bowel movement takes place.
Abdominal pain from a virus should be treated with rest and clear fluids in 1-2 oz doses. Water should be taken at room temperature without ice. Avoid milk, juice carbonated beverages, coffee and sports drinks. Soft drinks might be more palatable than water, but should be served flat and closer to room temperature than cold. Introduce solid foods on the BRAT plan – bananas, rice, apples, toast – using mild grains or white rice until the body is able to hold down solid food and produce a bowel movement.
Acute (sudden, short term) and chronic (long term, over time) pain might be caused by appendicitis, ulcers or infections, but the diseases that concern doctors most related to abdominal pain are heart attack, diverticulitis, blood circulation issue, kidney stones and other more serious diseases in the organs surrounding your abdomen.
Treatment for this more severe pain may include IV fluids for dehydration, pain medicine, anti-nausea medicine, an enema to clean out the colon, or the administration of antacids to reduced bloating and gas. In addition, your physician may want to have blood and urine analyzed and possibly a CT scan performed to help determine the cause of your pain.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
Call 911 or proceed to the nearest hospital emergency room if you are vomiting anything green or yellow or blood. This could indicate a requirement for immediate treatment. Pain that stops a patient from eating or sleeping or worsens with movement should be seen by a doctor for diagnosis right away. Go to the ER if the pain is so severe the patient can’t move or walk or begins vomiting blood or passing blood mixed with stool from the rectum. In general, anyone that is at the extremes of age should be evaluated by a physician immediately for severe abdominal pain.
See your primary care doctor or a Newport Urgent Care physician for less severe abdominal pain or if vomiting and diarrhea persists for more than 24-48 hours.
For more information on abdominal pain, see the following websites:
eMedicine on Appendicitis
eMedicine on Gastroenteritis
WebMD on Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older
Kids Health on Milk Allergies
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse on Digestive Diseases
Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of NewportUrgentCare.com. The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.