Abdominal pain in children is common and can have many causes. Usually, abdominal pain goes away without treatment. In some cases, the pain has an underlying cause and will need specialized treatment.

Abdominal pain can occur anywhere between the chest and the groin. A child may feel localized pain in one area, a more generalized in a larger area, or cramp-like pain.

Abdominal pain is common in babies, infants, and children under the age of 12, and it can have many causes.

This article will outline some causes of abdominal pain in children, other symptoms a child might experience, and when a child should see a doctor.

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There are many causes of abdominal pain in children. The most common causes are short term and resolve without medical intervention.

Causes of abdominal pain in children include:


If a child has fewer than three bowel movements in one week or has stools that are painful or difficult to pass, they may have constipation.

Learn how to treat constipation naturally here.

Trapped wind

More common in infants than older children, trapped wind can cause pain. Caregivers can help a baby get rid of wind through burping or passing gas.

Learn more about trapped wind and how to treat it here.


Viruses, such as rotavirus, norovirus, adenovirus, and enterovirus, cause stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, which is an infection of the intestines.

Learn more about stomach flu here.

Abdominal trauma

Children often bump into things, fall, or become injured during sports. If they hurt their abdomen, they may experience pain in that region.

Learn more about abdominal tenderness here.

Food poisoning

This happens when a child ingests food that contains harmful germs, often due to poor preparation and storage. Symptoms are similar to gastroenteritis.

Learn about the differences between a stomach virus and food poisoning here.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS):

IBS is a condition that affects the large intestine, or colon, and leads to symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, and stomach bloating.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of IBS here.

Lactose intolerance

Some children may have an intolerance to the sugar, or lactose, in milk and cannot digest it. Children with lactose intolerance may experience abdominal pain if they consume milk products.

Learn more about dairy alternatives here.


Colic is common in babies and appears to be very painful for babies. Another symptom of colic is wind.

Learn about colic in adults here.

Urinary tract infections (UTI)

These are more common in older children and cause symptoms such as pain when urinating, frequent urinating, and fever.

Learn more about UTIs here.


When part of the bowel slides into another, like a telescope, it can cause a blockage that prevents the normal flow of solids or liquids. Children with intussusception may have intermittent severe pain, bleeding from the bottom, and lethargy. Intussusception is a serious condition and requires medical attention.

Learn more about intussusception here.

Incarcerated hernia

When an organ or body tissue bulges through a weak spot in the abdominal wall, it can get trapped. This is a medical emergency. If blood flow is cut off, causing tissues to die, it is a strangulated hernia.

Learn what some hernias look like here.


Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, which is in the lower-right area of a person’s abdomen. It is a medical emergency. A burst appendix can be life threatening.

Learn more about identifying appendicitis here.

Testicular torsion

When a testicle rotates and twists the spermatic cord, a boy might feel pain in the abdominal area and the affected testicle.

Learn more about testicular pain here.

Ingestion of a foreign body

In most cases, when a child swallows an object, it will make its way through the gastrointestinal tract and pass out of the body unassisted. However, swallowing small items, such as button batteries or magnets, can cause life-threatening complications, and a child should go to the hospital immediately.

Learn what to do if someone has food stuck in their throat here.


Some children assigned female at birth may experience abdominal pain when they have a period. This is known as dysmenorrhea.

Learn about menstrual cramps here.

Depending on the cause, abdominal pain can be:

  • sharp or dull
  • severe or mild
  • lasting a few minutes or a few hours
  • worse when lying down

Other symptoms can accompany stomach pain, including:

Learn more about potential causes of abdominal pain here.

Doctors will usually use a combination of questioning and tests to determine the cause of abdominal pain in children.

A doctor might examine a child by pressing on their abdomen in different places and looking for tenderness and swelling. They may also ask if the pain gets more intense when they touch certain areas.

A doctor may also recommend tests to determine the cause, such as:

Learn more about abdominal ultrasounds here.

A doctor may describe it as RAP when a child experiences at least three episodes of pain over 3 months. The pain must be severe enough to impact the child’s daily activities. RAP is not a diagnosis but a descriptive term that can help doctors refer to the situation while determining the correct diagnosis.

Frequent abdominal pain in children could be due to an underlying condition.

Sometimes the pain can be psychosomatic, meaning that it may have links to a child’s mental health, worries, or emotions. People should speak with their child’s doctor if their child has repeated stomach aches.

Learn more about mental health here.

In most cases of abdominal pain, a child will get better without needing treatment.

If a person is caring for a child with abdominal pain, they should:

  • ensure the child rests
  • give the child pain relief but make sure that it is appropriate for the age and weight of the child
  • encourage the child to drink plenty of clear fluids, such as water, diluted juice, or oral rehydration solution
  • give the child bland foods to eat, such as bananas, toast, or crackers
  • sit them on the toilet, as passing a stool may help with the pain

If a doctor diagnoses an underlying condition, they will recommend specific treatments for that condition.

Learn which foods to eat for an upset stomach here.

People should contact a doctor regarding their child’s abdominal pain if the child:

  • has severe or worsening pain
  • has a fever or chills
  • becomes pale and sweaty
  • has been vomiting longer than 24 hours
  • refuses to eat or drink
  • has blood in their stool
  • is not passing urine or producing fewer than four wet nappies per day
  • develops a skin rash

A doctor may ask the child or their caregiver questions about their abdominal pain.

Questions may include:

  • When did the pain begin?
  • What was the child doing at the onset of the pain?
  • When was their last bowel movement?
  • Have there been changes to their urine?
  • Does the pain come and go, or is it constant?

Answering these questions and conducting tests may help the doctor diagnose the cause of the abdominal pain.

Learn about abdominal migraine in children here.

Most children will experience abdominal pain at some point, and most of the time, it is nothing to worry about. Often, children do not require specific treatment for abdominal pain, and the pain will resolve itself with home remedies and rest.

Learn about home remedies for a stomach upset here.

There are many different causes of stomach pain in children. The most common causes are constipation, trapped wind, and gastroenteritis.

Most cases of abdominal pain will resolve themselves without treatment. If the pain is severe or sudden, a caregiver should contact a doctor to determine the cause.

A doctor will usually ask questions and do a physical exam to reach a diagnosis.