Abdominal Pain with Unknown Cause, Male (Infant/Toddler)

Belly (abdominal) pain is common in children. But children often don't complain of pain because they don't have the words to describe what's wrong. They also have trouble pinpointing where it hurts. Often, they just feel bad, or don't want to eat. This can make abdominal pain hard to diagnose in young children. Also, abdominal symptoms are linked to many problems. Most of the time, the cause of abdominal pain in children isn't serious and will go away.

Over the next few days, abdominal pain may come and go or be continuous. It may be hard to decide if your child has pain or is feeling something else. Your child may be nauseated and vomit, have constipation, diarrhea, or fever. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your child feels nauseated because they just feel bad and don't associate that feeling with nausea. The child may touch their stomach a lot or indicate pain when the stomach is touched.

Abdominal pain may continue even when being treated correctly. Sometimes the cause can become clearer over the next few days and may need more or different treatment. Additional tests or medicines may be needed.

Home care

Your child's healthcare provider may prescribe medicine for pain and symptoms of infection. Follow the instructions for giving these medicines to your child.

General care

  • Comfort your child as needed.

  • Try to find positions that ease your child’s discomfort. A small pillow placed on the abdomen may help provide pain relief.

  • Distraction may also help. Some children may be soothed by listening to music or having someone read to them.

Diet

  • Don't force your child to eat, especially if they are having pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.

  • Water is important to prevent dehydration. Soup, frozen ice pops, and oral rehydration solution will help. Give liquids a small amount at a time. Don't let your child guzzle it down.

  • Don't give your child fatty, greasy, spicy, or fried foods.

  • Don't give your child dairy products if they have diarrhea.

  • Don't let your child eat large amounts of food at a time, even if they are hungry. Wait a few minutes between bites, and offer more if tolerated.

  • Follow any dietary instructions provided by the healthcare provider. Ask for the instructions in writing if you're worried you won't remember the information.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised. If tests or studies were done, they'll be reviewed by a specialist. You'll be told of any new findings that may affect your child’s care.

Special notes to parents

Keep a record of symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. Note what your child was doing when the symptoms started, such as eating or going to the bathroom. This may help the healthcare provider make a diagnosis.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Trouble waking child from sleep

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Fast heart rate

  • Seizure

When to get medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • Inconsolable crying or irritability

  • Continuing symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, bleeding, painful or bloody urination, nausea and vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea

  • Belly swelling or the belly wall becomes rigid and hard

  • There is a recent history of injury or trauma to the belly

  • Your child recently had surgery and is having any symptoms

  • Painful, swollen, or inflamed scrotum

  • Not peeing or having wet diapers

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until they are at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell them which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4° (38°C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

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