"Tummy ache" is
a symptom that understandably causes parents
much concern and anxiety, principally because of
the possibility of it being due to appendicitis
or some other serious condition. However,
abdominal pain in childhood is common and has
many causes. It can be produced by infections
elsewhere in the body, such as tonsillitis, as a
result of inflammation of the abdominal lymph
glands. It may be caused by increased bowel
activity, such as in association with diarrhoea,
when it will be of a colicky, off-and-on nature.
Constipation only very rarely causes abdominal
pain but abdominal pain is frequently produced
by attempts to correct constipation through the
over-enthusiastic use of laxatives. Emotional
upset and stress can frequently cause abdominal
discomfort; it is important to realize that the
child is not "putting it on". In
such cases, the child usually appears otherwise
comparatively well. It is often difficult for a
child to describe where and what the tummy ache
Not infrequently it is a term a child uses
to mean something different from that understood
by adults and, when he says "my tummy
hurts", the child might indeed be meaning
that he feels nauseated or just unwell.
Management of abdominal
Any complaint of abdominal
pain should be taken seriously especially if
this is not a normal occurrence of if there is
no obvious explanation. The child will usually
want to lie down and this should be encouraged.
Some relief may be achieved by applying local
heat, by means of a hot water bottle on the
stomach. No solid food should be given, just
clear fluids. Aspirin or Disprin should be given
for relief of pain.
WHEN TO CONSULT THE DOCTOR
If the child seems
If the pain is
constant or severe.
If there is no other
obvious cause, i.e. acute tonsillitis,
gastro-enteritis or evidence of emotional
If the pain persists
for more than 6 hours.