Patients of any age can get a stomachache. This is one of those common ailments that is most often ignored, whether it happens in adults or children. And, typically, a stomachache does usually pass with little fanfare. It’s often attributed to constipation or diarrhea, indigestion, or another non-serious factor. However, it’s wise to know when your stomach pain is something you should ignore, and when you (or your child) should see a physician. Read on to learn about what may be causing abdominal pain, when you should consult a doctor, and how it can be successfully treated.
What Is Abdominal Pain?
Abdominal (or stomach) pain is pain that is located somewhere between the chest and the pelvis. While pain in this entire area is often coined with the blanket term “tummy ache,” there are many organs other than the stomach located in this area, which is why the severity of stomach pain should be considered. Pain could also be emanating from the liver, kidneys, appendix, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, or the intestines.
It’s also important to note that the vena cava, which is the main artery of the heart, also extends through the abdomen. While most cases of abdominal pain disappear on their own and don’t require treatment, sometimes it’s wise to have pain checked out, particularly when it comes to kids’ stomach pain. The pediatric department at GI Associates is specially trained to diagnose and treat pediatric gastrointestinal conditions.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Abdominal Pain?
The most common cause of abdominal pain throughout all age groups is indigestion, or “something you ate.” However, there are other causes. Some require medical attention and some do not. Another common cause is stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis. With stomach flu, pain is usually accompanied by myriad other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Gas is another common cause of stomach pain, but this can also be attributed to indigestion quite often. Constipation is another cause, as well as vomiting not related to stomach flu, as vomiting can hurt the muscles of the stomach temporarily, causing pain. Other causes include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Menstrual cramps
- Pulled muscles
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Acid reflux disease or GERD
Nearly all of the above conditions should require some level of medical attention, as diseases such as acid reflux disease, IBS, or a UTI should be thoroughly evaluated by a doctor. When stomach pain is more serious, it will often be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
When Should You Contact Your Doctor?
Sometimes stomach pain, especially stomach pain in children, can be moderately or urgently acute. Stomach pain in kids shouldn’t be ignored, even if you think it may just be a mild case of indigestion. However, some of the most serious signs of stomach pain to watch for include:
- Severity. If your (or the child’s) stomach pain is topping the pain scale, it’s likely not gas, indigestion, or menstrual cramps.
- Pain in the right lower quadrant of the stomach. This could be indicative of appendicitis because this is where the appendix is located. Coupled with severity, this type of pain warrants immediate attention.
- Blood. The presence of any type of blood is a serious sign. This includes blood in the stool, in the urine, or in vomit. Green vomit is also another indicator that something may be seriously wrong.
- Pain with urination. Pain and burning while urinating is a common symptom of UTI or a kidney infection.
- Extremely high fever. Stomach pain in children comorbid with a high fever should be looked at immediately.
- Other “odd” symptoms. If the stomach pain also presents with hives, swelling, dizziness, or a severe cough, it warrants a checkup.
It’s always a good idea to be on the safe side and not ignore stomach pain symptoms in patients of any age, especially if they are prolonged and severe. If you need more information about stomach pain or kids’ stomach pain, request an appointment at GI Associates and Endoscopy Center today. We have three locations and also specialize in pediatric gastrointestinal services.