Pain is the body's way of signaling that something is going on. Belly pain alerts
us to something that's happening inside that we might not know about otherwise. Stomachaches
are a common complaint among kids and teens.
Where Does Belly Pain Happen?
Stomachache is a general term for pain that begins somewhere in the abdomen or
The abdomen is the whole area between the chest and the pelvic
(hip) bones. It contains many organs besides the stomach, such as the intestines,
gallbladder, appendix, and
The pelvis is right below the abdomen. It holds the urinary
organs, as well as the reproductive organs (such as the uterus, ovaries, and vagina
and the testicles and prostate gland in boys).
Sometimes problems in other areas can cause stomachaches too, like infections in
the lungs or throat.
What Causes Stomachaches?
Some reasons for belly pain are obvious, like when someone gets hit in the gut
or eats spoiled food. Other times, it can be hard to figure out. With so many organs
in the abdomen, different problems can have similar symptoms.
Food reactions can be more than eating too much or basic indigestion. When people
can't digest certain foods, doctors say they have a food
intolerance, for example, causes belly pain when someone eats milk products. If
you notice your child complaining of pain or other symptoms like gas, bloating, or
diarrhea after eating certain foods, call your doctor.
Conditions like celiac
disease (a reaction to proteins in some grains) or food
allergies (like peanut
allergy) are different from food intolerance. They involve immune
system reactions that can actually harm the body beyond just producing a temporary
reaction. Someone who has a true food allergy must always avoid that food.
The digestive system isn't the only cause of stomachaches. Menstrual
cramps are a common cause of pain in the reproductive organs. Infections in the
reproductive system, such as pelvic
inflammatory disease, also can cause abdominal pain in girls.
Testicular injuries can make a guy feel sick or even throw up if they are severe.
Women often feel nausea during pregnancy. Ectopic
pregnancies (when the pregnancy implants in the wrong place) can cause abdominal
Because problems like ectopic pregnancy need quick treatment, girls who have belly
pain and think they might be pregnant should call a doctor right away. And girls who
have had unprotected sex should be tested for STDs. Untreated STDs can cause problems
like infertility and chronic belly or pelvic pain.
Teenagers should always use a condom
when having sex to protect against STDs and pregnancy.
Some diseases or defects can affect how the organs do their jobs, causing pain.
can make the intestinal wall swell and scar so much that it may block the intestine.
Hernias also can block
the intestines, as can growths like tumors. Torsion is a medical term that means "twisting."
Torsion can affect the intestines, ovaries, and testicles,
cutting off blood supply or affecting how they work.
When kids get stressed,
their emotions can trigger physical symptoms, such as headaches or abdominal pain.
Also tell the doctor if the pain is from an injury, or if you think your daughter
might be pregnant.
How Can I Help My Child?
Most bellyaches in kids and teens don't have a serious cause. They can happen for
many different reasons, but most are easy
If stress or anxiety seem to be behind the pain, for example, the doctor may recommend
talking to a counselor or therapist.
They can help people figure out what's behind their stress, and give advice on how
to fix problems or handle them better.
Can Stomachaches Be Prevented?
Not all belly pain can be prevented. But to help avoid common types of stomachaches,
everyone in the family should:
Wash their hands before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom.
Drink plenty of water and eat fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables,
to keep food moving through the digestive system.
Avoid foods that
have passed their expiration date or weren't stored properly.
Avoid foods that make them sick if they have a food allergy or intolerance. If
they have a food allergy, they should always have access to an epinephrine auto-injector,
and should know when and how to use it if they are old enough.