Many children present with a “sore tummy”. The cause varies from mild issues such as a short lived gastroenteritis to something more severe. The most common cause of a sore tummy is a viral gastroenteritis or tummy bug. In this case your child is slightly off their food but still drinking and passing plenty of urine and may have some diarrhoea and or vomiting. They should be back to their normal selves by 2-3 days. If your child consistently complains of a sore tummy over several days and in particular if it means they aren’t able to attend school or daycare, it is definitely worth seeing your GP to check things out.
Red flags (that is – bad stuff to not miss and come in to see us or another GP or hospital) to look for in abdominal pain in children include:
- Severe pain – where the child is doubled over in pain and very teary and not eating or drinking. This could be surgical problem like appendicitis – especially if over the right lower side of the tummy. Please see your GP today.
- Pain with a high fever, this may indicate a viral infection like mesenteric adenitis, where the glands of the gut become inflamed and cause pain. Abdominal pain in children can also be caused by other infections – so tonsillitis or ear infections weirdly can present with tummy pain. Urinary tract infections and kidney issues can cause tummy pain with fever too. See your GP in the next 24-48 hours.
- While not very interesting, this a very very common cause of tummy pain- Constipation isn’t so much children not going very often but moreover the straining and effort involved. So a child can pass a bowel movement every 3 days and if it’s soft and sausage like, this is normal. But if it is painful and they often avoid defecating and the result is pellet like (like a sheep dropping) then this is constipation. This is important to see your GP (non urgently) and start treating.
- Pain on school mornings can be associated with anxiety with not wanting to go to school. This is a very common scenario and we need to rule out tummy causes and then treat the school related anxiety. See your GP non urgently.
- An unwell child with abdominal pain can also be some other rare causes like type 1 Diabetes or masses in the tummy. Again, please see your GP.
At the end of the day you know your own child best and if they are unhappy then please ring us up. If your child is very unwell or you are very worried please tell the reception staff and we would be more than happy to fit them in on the day for a review.
Dr Tanya McGhee