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Abdominal Pain

Chronic abdominal pain, sometimes referred to as functional abdominal pain (FAP), occurs because of sensitivity to nerve impulses in the gut, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. A virus or stress may trigger functional abdominal pain in children.

Did you know?

Chronic abdominal pain in quite common. About 30 percent of school-age children have functional abdominal pain, with only about half of them seeking medical attention for the chronic health issue.

Symptoms

The symptoms of abdominal pain in children may appear to be a typical of a stomachache brought on by food. To diagnose functional abdominal pain it is important to note the frequency and severity of symptoms that may include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Sweating
  • Flushed or pale face

Pain, especially in the right lower quadrant (under your belly button), accompanied by fever, vomiting blood or green bile, bloody stools or lethargy in not likely to be functional abdominal pain. If any of these symptoms occur, call your pediatrician immediately.

Causes

The specific reason why pain occurs is often unknown. It has been suggested that the following factors may increase your child’s risk of functional abdominal pain:

  • Food intolerances: a reaction to some food and drinks, such as citrus juices or dairy products, may increase sensitivity of the nerve impulses in the gut
  • Heredity: having an immediate member of your family (such as a parent or sibling) with functional abdominal pain increases the risk
  • Immune system: your child’s immune system may overreact to normal intestinal bacteria causing the sensitivity of the nerve impulses in the gut
  • Psychological: many studies show that underlying anxiety or depression can contribute to chronic abdominal pain

How is abdominal pain diagnosed?

Acute abdominal pain should first be evaluated by your child's pediatrician. If your pediatrician needs assistance with diagnosing and treating your child's abdominal pain, he may refer you to a gastroenterologist.

Treatment

While there is no cure currently available, the functional abdominal pain can usually be controlled with diet changes and certain medications. In addition, treatment should focus on stress reduction. Some ways to reduce stress are to keep to a regular routine (including a healthy diet) and keep your child’s attitude positive by keeping his mind off of the pain.

Medications

  • Fiber supplements
  • Antacids
  • Muscle relaxers