Abdominal pain in children
The most common reason for going to a pediatrician is when a child has a stomach ache. Abdominal pain (abdominal pain) occurs in children of all ages (from infants to adolescents) and, in most cases, signals the presence of disorders both in the work of the gastrointestinal tract and in other organs.
How to differentiate abdominal pain in young children, what symptoms should you be afraid of and what to do if your baby has pain in the navel, in any other area of the abdomen? These and other questions are answered by the pediatricians of the Amel Dental clinic.
Causes and types of abdominal pain in children
A child’s belly can hurt for several reasons. Depending on the source of pain, there are:
- 1Organic pain – associated with functional and other disorders in the work of the organs of the gastrointestinal tract.
- 2Inorganic pain – not related to the work of the digestive tract, caused by disorders in other organs and systems.
- 3Psychosomatic pain – arising against the background of stress, appearing in the absence of any disturbances in the work of internal organs.
Organic (visceral) abdominal pain
Visceral pain occurs directly in the organs located in the abdomen. Painful sensations of organic etiology in a child may be associated with such diseases:
- stomach ulcer;
- pancreatitis, cholecystitis;
- colitis, enteritis, enterocolitis;
- diseases of the liver, gallbladder;
- inflammatory processes of the genitourinary system.
In the area of localization of the pathological process, blood circulation is disturbed, stretching or tension occurs, which irritate the nerve endings. Nerve fibers, when irritated, send a signal to the spinal cord, and the child feels pain in the abdomen. With diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, the stomach hurts in the navel, in the upper, lower abdomen.
In accordance with where exactly the pain is located, the doctor can suggest the type and nature of the pathology. For example:
- pain in the upper abdomen may indicate the development of a pathological process in the stomach, lower esophagus;
- pain around the navel occurs when the small intestine is irritated;
- pains below the navel (lower abdomen) indicate pathological processes in the large intestine.
Dangerous symptoms (acute abdomen)
A sharp abdomen means that the child is experiencing severe aching or acute pain (continuous or frequent pain attacks).
How to determine that a baby has such an acute condition? Signs of an “acute abdomen”:
- the baby complains of severe pain, cries, screams, writhes in pain;
- painful sensations do not disappear for 2-4 hours or increase;
- the child’s overall health worsens, cold sweat appears;
- the child’s consciousness is confused from pain, he is on the verge of fainting.
In the described condition, a visit to a doctor should be immediate! Acute pain symptoms may indicate such dangerous diseases, conditions as pancreatitis, internal bleeding, intestinal obstruction, cholecystitis, appendicitis, peritonitis, purulent inflammation, perforated ulcer.
Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining accompanied by abdominal pain and digestive problems. The most common cause of gastritis in children is H. pylori infection.
The predisposition to the disease is due to factors that affect the acidity of gastric juice and thereby increase the risk of infection:
- increased emotional sensitivity;
- strong experiences, stress due to problems in the family, at school;
- allergic reactions;
- eating disorder.
If a child has a stomach ache and vomiting, he probably has gastritis, since with gastritis the liver enlarges, bile stagnation is observed, and this leads to the manifestation of dyspeptic disorders:
- nausea and vomiting;
- constipation, diarrhea.
Inflammatory processes in the small or large intestine manifest as acute abdominal pain and indigestion (diarrhea). Most often, in childhood, colitis, enteritis develop as a result of acute infections, after antibiotic therapy, and also as a result of the ingestion of pathogens of intestinal infections.
Signs of bowel disease:
- stomach ache and fever, pains are paroxysmal;
- diarrhea, constipation or alternating constipation, diarrhea;
- rumbling, bloating.
The child becomes irritable and whiny, he may experience spasms of smooth muscles, and vascular dystonia develops. If the disease is not caused by an acute intestinal infection, periods of remission may occur. Then the painful sensations pass, but intestinal dysfunction persists. In this case, rehabilitation treatment is carried out.
An ulcer of the stomach (duodenal ulcer) is called an inflammatory process, during the development of which ulcerations are formed on the mucous membrane of the stomach (duodenum), has the same causes and predisposition factors as gastritis. With a peptic ulcer, gastric juice is also ejected into the esophagus (gastroesophageal reflux), which causes heartburn, belching, and pain in the upper abdomen.
- increased pain intensity, increased pain attacks;
- drastic weight loss;
- vomiting with the inclusion of regular or dark blood.
Diseases of the biliary system
Diseases of the liver, gallbladder in children, as a rule, have a microbial etiology, develop due to:
- dyskinesia of the biliary tract due to compression, blockage of the ducts;
- dysfunction of the sphincter apparatus;
- violations of the contractility of the gallbladder.
Symptoms of diseases of the biliary system:
- pain in the upper abdomen;
- unstable (irregular, with a change in consistency) stool;
- enlargement of the liver.
Appendicitis in children is quite common. If it is rare in babies (up to 2 years old), then at an older age, inflammation of the appendix is diagnosed in every sixth child. It is the main surgical cause of abdominal pain, and appendix removal is one of the most common operations in children.
How to differentiate appendicitis in a child? On such grounds:
- loss of appetite;
- general weakness, increased fatigue;
- abdominal pain and fever (slight increase);
- periodic bouts of nausea.
In addition, with appendicitis, a child develops pain around the navel, which persists for several hours, after which it concentrates in the lower right abdomen. During an attack of pain, the baby lies down and presses his legs to his stomach. The presence of these symptoms in a child is an indication for immediate hospitalization.
Non-organic causes of abdominal pain
Pain of inorganic origin in children is pain associated with irritation of the peritoneum, as well as reflected pain.
In the first case, the causes of pain can be:
- functional disorders in infants – colic, which occur suddenly, make the baby scream in pain and twist his legs, pass after gas or defecation, and are usually associated with the fact that the gastrointestinal tract is not yet sufficiently strong;
- intolerance to certain foods;
- mesenteric vasospasm;
- systemic diseases;
- the presence of a tumor.
When the peritoneum is irritated, the child develops acute localized pain, which intensifies with any movement, coughing.
Reflected pains are similar in symptomatology to pains arising from irritation of the peritoneum. The main difference between the reflected pains is that the source (diseased organ) is located outside the abdomen.
For example, a child may have a stomach ache with diseases such as:
- pneumonia, when the infection affects the lower lungs;
- cardiovascular diseases.
Severe pain in the lower abdomen in a boy may occur with a neoplasm in the groin (entrapment of an inguinal hernia).
In any situation when a child complains of abdominal pain, it is necessary first of all to exclude such dangerous conditions as an acute abdomen (tension, vomiting, increasing pain) and be sure to make an appointment for an examination, consultation with a pediatrician.
Abdominal pain does not always have physiological causes. In childhood, painful sensations caused by various emotional experiences are very common (found in about 10% of children). We are talking about pains of a psychosomatic nature, which appear against the background of severe stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors.
- sudden attacks of dull pain in the navel, which also suddenly end;
- nausea, headache, general weakness, pallor of the skin are also possible.
The task of parents is to be attentive, to observe the condition of the baby. When the listed symptoms appear, it is necessary to exclude diseases of the internal organs. In the absence of physiological causes of abdominal pain (confirmation of psychological reasons), the pediatrician can refer the baby to a child psychologist, psychiatrist for consultation.
If a child has a stomach ache: recommendations of pediatricians Amel Dental
In the treatment of abdominal pain in children associated with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, nutritional correction (diet) is of great importance. It implies the exclusion of irritating factors from the child’s diet – fatty foods, fried foods, sweets, baked goods, the inclusion of foods that have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the digestive system. Along with proper nutrition, rational physical activity has a positive effect on overall well-being. If necessary, the doctor will prescribe drug therapy.
In case of acute, and even more prolonged and increasing abdominal pain, the first thing parents should do is call a doctor (ambulance). Before the doctor arrives, you need to put the baby to bed.
What absolutely must not be done:
- panic so as not to disturb the child;
- try to feed him, drink him;
- give painkillers, as they can affect the clinical picture and prevent the doctor from accurately determining the localization of pain, making a diagnosis;
- using cold or warm compresses on the stomach, putting an enema, giving the child laxatives – all this can worsen the condition.
Determining the origin of abdominal pain in children is a difficult task that can only be solved by a qualified doctor. The pediatricians of the Amel Dental clinic urge parents not to ignore the child’s complaints about abdominal pain, and immediately make an appointment with a specialist. Timely diagnosis, treatment quickly improves the condition and well-being of the child and allows avoiding the development of many dangerous diseases, minimizing the risks of complications.