Acute abdominal pain in children

Acute abdominal pain in children does not always indicate a disease or condition in the abdomen. Children can also have stomach aches for psychological reasons. For example, if he/she has had enough of his/her sister or if someone is rude to him/her. This pain is usually felt around the navel. Conditions outside the abdomen, such as earache, can also be reported as abdominal pain by the child. Acute abdominal pain literally means that the abdominal pain started very suddenly. Usually in children it does not indicate a serious illness. However, there are a number of diseases that cannot be ruled out.


In a volvulus, the intestine of a newborn baby rotates around its longitudinal axis. This often happens in the first months after birth. The cause is a congenital defect in which the intestine does not lie properly in the abdominal cavity. The complaints that the baby has are constant crying, seems to have a severe stomach ache, vomits and no longer passes wind and does not pass stools. If nothing is done about this, the part of the intestine that has twisted may die because the blood vessels have also become pinched. The child is getting sicker. The only solution is urgent surgery to reverse the piece of intestine. It is a rare condition.


Intussusception is also rare. During intussusception, part of the small or large intestine slides in on itself and creates a closure of the intestine. It mainly occurs in babies between three and twenty-four months old. The symptoms vary. The child suddenly experiences acute recurring attacks of severe abdominal pain and crying. The children often sit or lie huddled together and turn pale. They often also vomit. Such an attack lasts about five to fifteen minutes. There are no complaints in between. After half an hour to an hour another attack occurs. This continues to repeat until the intestine is completely closed. Children then have a swollen stomach. No more passing wind and no more stools.
If no closure of the intestine occurs. The child produces a strawberry jelly-like stool approximately twenty-four hours after the onset of the attacks. This is mucus mixed with blood.
If it is suspected that a child is suffering from intussusception, he or she will be urgently sent to the hospital where an intestinal examination will take place . Contrast is introduced, this is done under special pressure, whereby in 75% of cases the intestine will slide back again. An operation is still required in 25% of children.

Acute appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix)

In appendicitis, the vermiform appendage of the large intestine becomes inflamed. It can occur at any age, but is most common between the ages of two and 20. The appendicitis starts with a vague abdominal pain around the navel, which moves to the lower right abdomen and becomes worse. The appetite is poor and children often feel nauseous, vomit and have a slight fever. When examined by a GP, the lower right abdomen is painful when he presses and releases it. The patient must be urgently sent to the hospital where the appendix will be removed. If you wait too long, the appendix can also burst. The pus and pus then runs into the abdominal cavity, which can be life-threatening.

Intestinal obstruction due to an obstructed inguinal hernia

An inguinal hernia is a bulge of the peritoneum through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. (in this case the groin). It is fairly common in young children. Sometimes it can happen that a piece of intestine can get stuck in such a bulge. The intestine is then pinched off. If the tightness lasts for a long time, the part of the intestine with the peritoneum becomes painful. A painful lump in the groin will then be visible. Attacks of severe abdominal pain also occur and there is no bowel movement anymore. The abdomen begins to swell and the child often vomits. The child must be seen urgently by a GP and referred to the hospital.

Other causes of abdominal pain in children

In addition to psychological causes and earache, there are also many other causes that can cause stomach pain in children. A bladder infection can also cause abdominal pain without any urinary complaints. If a child has abdominal pain, it is always useful to have the urine checked. Children often have abdominal pain, and it is rarely serious. Just think of a stomach flu or another virus.

read more

  • Acute abdominal pain in adults over forty years of age
  • Abdominal pain in adults under 40 years of age
  • Appendicitis
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