Abdominal Pain, Age 11 and Younger (2022)

Does your child have pain or cramping in the belly?

This also includes injuries to the belly.

Yes

Abdominal pain

No

Abdominal pain

How old are you?

Less than 3 months

Less than 3 months

3 to 5 months

3 to 5 months

6 months to 11 years

6 months to 11 years

12 years or older

12 years or older

Are you male or female?

Male

Male

Female

Female

The medical assessment of symptoms is based on the body parts you have.

  • If you are transgender or non-binary, choose the sex that matches the body parts (such as ovaries, testes, prostate, breasts, penis, or vagina) you now have in the area where you are having symptoms.
  • If your symptoms aren’t related to those organs, you can choose the gender you identify with.
  • If you have some organs of both sexes, you may need to go through this triage tool twice (once as "male" and once as "female"). This will make sure that the tool asks the right questions for you.

Has your child had surgery on the chest or belly in the past 2 weeks?

Yes

Recent abdominal surgery

No

Recent abdominal surgery

Has your child swallowed or inhaled an object?

Yes

Swallowed or inhaled object

No

Swallowed or inhaled object

Does your child have symptoms of shock?

Yes

Signs of shock

No

Signs of shock

Does your baby seem sick?

A sick baby probably will not be acting normally. For example, the baby may be much fussier than usual or not want to eat.

Yes

Baby seems sick

No

Baby seems sick

How sick do you think your baby is?

Extremely sick

Baby is very sick (limp and not responsive)

Sick

Baby is sick (sleepier than usual, not eating or drinking like usual)

Do you think your baby may be dehydrated?

Yes

May be dehydrated

No

May be dehydrated

Are the symptoms severe, moderate, or mild?

Severe

Severe dehydration

Moderate

Moderate dehydration

Mild

Mild dehydration

Do you think your child may be dehydrated?

It can be harder to tell in a baby or young child than it is in an older child.

Yes

May be dehydrated

No

May be dehydrated

Are the symptoms severe, moderate, or mild?

The symptoms in a baby are different than the symptoms in an older child.

Severe

Severe dehydration

Moderate

Moderate dehydration

Mild

Mild dehydration

Is your child having trouble drinking enough to replace the fluids he or she has lost?

Little sips of fluid usually are not enough. The child needs to be able to take in and keep down plenty of fluids.

Yes

Unable to drink enough fluids

No

Able to drink enough fluids

Does your child have pain in the belly?

Yes

Belly pain

No

Belly pain

How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?

Signs of pain in a baby or toddler are different than signs of pain in an older child.

8 to 10: Severe pain

Severe pain

5 to 7: Moderate pain

Moderate pain

1 to 4: Mild pain

Mild pain

Does the belly feel hard when you touch it?

Normally the belly is soft and has some "give." A hard, rigid belly may be a sign of a more serious problem.

Yes

Abdomen is hard (rigid) to the touch

No

Abdomen is hard (rigid) to the touch

Does pressing on the belly cause severe pain?

Yes

Pressing on abdomen causes severe pain

No

Pressing on abdomen causes severe pain

Has the pain:

Gotten worse?

Pain is increasing

Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?

Pain is unchanged

Gotten better?

Pain is improving

How long has your child had pain?

Less than 4 hours

Less than 4 hours

4 hours but less than 1 day (24 hours)

4 hours but less than 1 day (24 hours)

1 to 3 days

1 to 3 days

More than 3 days

More than 3 days

Does the belly hurt all over or mostly in one area?

Pain that is most intense in just one area is likely to be more serious than a bellyache that hurts all over.

Mostly in one area

Localized pain

All over

Generalized pain

Is the pain in the lower right part of the belly?

Yes

Pain in lower right part of belly

No

Pain in lower right part of belly

Does your child have pain with a new bulge in the belly button or groin?

Yes

Pain with new bulge in navel or groin

No

Pain with new bulge in navel or groin

Is your child nauseated or vomiting?

Nauseated means you feel sick to your stomach, like you are going to vomit.

Yes

Nausea or vomiting

No

Nausea or vomiting

Within the past week, has your child had an injury to the abdomen, like a blow to the belly or a hard fall?

Yes

Abdominal injury within past week

No

Abdominal injury within past week

Since the injury, has there been any bleeding from the rectum, urethra, or vagina?

Yes

Bleeding from rectum, vaginal or urethra since injury

No

Bleeding from rectum, vaginal or urethra since injury

Is there a belly wound that is deeper than a scratch?

Yes

Penetrating wound

No

Penetrating wound

Do you suspect that the injury may have been caused by abuse?

This is a standard question that we ask in certain topics. It may not apply to you. But asking it of everyone helps us to get people the help they need.

Yes

Injury may have been caused by abuse

No

Injury may have been caused by abuse

Has your child vomited since the injury?

Yes

Vomited after injury

No

Vomited after injury

Is there pain just below the ribs?

Pain just below the ribs after an injury can be a symptom of serious damage to the liver or spleen.

Yes

Pain is below ribs

No

Pain is below ribs

Do you think your baby has a fever?

Yes

Fever

No

Fever

Did you take your child's temperature?

This is the only way to be sure that a baby this age does not have a fever. If you don't know the temperature, it's safest to assume the baby has a fever and needs to be seen by a doctor. Any problem that causes a fever at this age could be serious. Rectal temperatures are the most accurate. Taking an axillary (armpit) temperature is also an option.

Yes

Temperature taken

No

Temperature taken

Is it 38°C (100.4°F) or higher, taken rectally?

This would be an axillary temperature of 37.5°C (99.5°F) or higher.

Yes

Temperature at least 38°C (100.4°F) taken rectally

No

Temperature at least 38°C (100.4°F) taken rectally

Do you think your child has a fever?

Yes

Fever

No

Fever

Did you take your child's temperature?

Yes

Temperature taken

No

Temperature taken

How high is the fever? The answer may depend on how you took the temperature.

NOTE: Most people have an average body temperature of about 37°C (98.6°F). But it can vary by a degree or more and still be considered normal. If a low body temperature is the only symptom, it’s usually not something to worry about. But be sure to watch for other symptoms.

High: 40°C (104°F) or higher, oral

High fever: 40°C (104°F) or higher, oral

Moderate: 38°C (100.4°F) to 39.9°C (103.9°F), oral

Moderate fever: 38°C (100.4°F) to 39.9°C (103.9°F), oral

Mild: 37.9°C (100.3°F) or lower, oral

Mild fever: 37.9°C (100.3°F) or lower, oral

How high do you think the fever is?

High

Feels fever is high

Moderate

Feels fever is moderate

Mild or low

Feels fever is mild

How long has your child had a fever?

Less than 2 days (48 hours)

Fever for less than 2 days

From 2 days to less than 1 week

Fever for more than 2 days and less than 1 week

1 week or longer

Fever for 1 week or more

Does your child have a health problem or take medicine that weakens his or her immune system?

Yes

Disease or medicine that causes immune system problems

No

Disease or medicine that causes immune system problems

Does your child have shaking chills or very heavy sweating?

Shaking chills are a severe, intense form of shivering. Heavy sweating means that sweat is pouring off the child or soaking through his or her clothes.

Yes

Shaking chills or heavy sweating

No

Shaking chills or heavy sweating

Are your child's stools black or bloody?

Yes

Black or bloody stools

No

Black or bloody stools

How much blood is there?

More than a few drops. Blood is mixed in with the stool, not just on the surface.

More than a few drops of blood on stool or diaper

A few drops on the stool or diaper

A few drops of blood in stool or diaper

Does your child have diabetes?

Yes

Diabetes

No

Diabetes

Is your child's diabetes getting out of control because your child is sick?

Yes

Diabetes is affected by illness

No

Diabetes is affected by illness

Do you and your child's doctor have a plan for what to do when your child is sick?

Yes

Diabetes illness plan

No

Diabetes illness plan

Is the plan helping get your child's blood sugar under control?

Yes

Diabetes illness plan working

No

Diabetes illness plan not working

How fast is it getting out of control?

Quickly (over several hours)

Blood sugar quickly worsening

Slowly (over days)

Blood sugar slowly worsening

Do you think that a medicine could be causing the belly pain?

Think about whether the belly pain started after you began using a new medicine or a higher dose of a medicine.

Yes

Medicine may be causing abdominal pain

No

Medicine may be causing abdominal pain

Have your child's symptoms lasted longer than 1 week?

Yes

Child's symptoms have lasted longer than 1 week

No

Child's symptoms have lasted longer than 1 week

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), medicines that suppress the immune system like steroids or chemotherapy, or natural health products can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

HomeTreatment

RelatedInformation

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and congenital heart disease.
  • Steroid medicines, which are used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Not having a spleen.

With cramping pain in the belly:

  • The pain may hurt a little or a lot.
  • The amount of pain may change from minute to minute. Cramps often get better when you pass gas or have a bowel movement.
  • The pain may feel like a tightness or pinching in your belly.
  • The pain may be in one specific area or be over a larger area. It may move around.

Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For children up to 11 years old, here are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild according to how you took the temperature.

Oral (by mouth), ear, or rectal temperature

  • High: 40° C (104° F) and higher
  • Moderate: 38° C (100.4° F) to 39.9° C (103.9° F)
  • Mild: 37.9° C (100.3° F) and lower

A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.3° C (0.5° F) to 0.6° C (1° F) lower than an oral temperature.

Armpit (axillary) temperature

  • High: 39.5° C (103° F) and higher
  • Moderate: 37.5° C (99.5° F) to 39.4° C (102.9° F)
  • Mild: 37.4° C (99.4° F) and lower

Note: For children under 5 years old, rectal temperatures are the most accurate.

A baby that is extremely sick:

  • May be limp and floppy like a rag doll.
  • May not respond at all to being held, touched, or talked to.
  • May be hard to wake up.

A baby that is sick (but not extremely sick):

  • May be sleepier than usual.
  • May not eat or drink as much as usual.

Babies can quickly get dehydrated when they lose fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.

Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:

  • The baby may be fussy or cranky (mild dehydration), or the baby may be very sleepy and hard to wake up (severe dehydration).
  • The baby may have a little less urine than usual (mild dehydration), or the baby may not be urinating at all (severe dehydration).

You can get dehydrated when you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.

Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:

  • You may feel tired and edgy (mild dehydration), or you may feel weak, not alert, and not able to think clearly (severe dehydration).
  • You may pass less urine than usual (mild dehydration), or you may not be passing urine at all (severe dehydration).

Severe dehydration means:

  • The baby may be very sleepy and hard to wake up.
  • The baby may have a very dry mouth and very dry eyes (no tears).
  • The baby may have no wet diapers in 12 or more hours.

Moderate dehydration means:

  • The baby may have no wet diapers in 6 hours.
  • The baby may have a dry mouth and dry eyes (fewer tears than usual).

Mild dehydration means:

  • The baby may pass a little less urine than usual.

Severe dehydration means:

  • The child's mouth and eyes may be extremely dry.
  • The child may pass little or no urine for 12 or more hours.
  • The child may not seem alert or able to think clearly.
  • The child may be too weak or dizzy to stand.
  • The child may pass out.

Moderate dehydration means:

  • The child may be a lot more thirsty than usual.
  • The child's mouth and eyes may be drier than usual.
  • The child may pass little or no urine for 8 or more hours.
  • The child may feel dizzy when he or she stands or sits up.

Mild dehydration means:

  • The child may be more thirsty than usual.
  • The child may pass less urine than usual.

Pain in children under 3 years

It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that the baby cannot sleep, cannot get comfortable, and cries constantly no matter what you do. The baby may kick, make fists, or grimace.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The baby is very fussy, clings to you a lot, and may have trouble sleeping but responds when you try to comfort him or her.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): The baby is a little fussy and clings to you a little but responds when you try to comfort him or her.

Pain in children 3 years and older

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that the child can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain. No one can tolerate severe pain for more than a few hours.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt the child's normal activities and sleep, but the child can tolerate it for hours or days.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): The child notices and may complain of the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt his or her sleep or activities.

If you're not sure if a child's fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:

With a high fever:

  • The child feels very hot.
  • It is likely one of the highest fevers the child has ever had.

With a moderate fever:

  • The child feels warm or hot.
  • You are sure the child has a fever.

With a mild fever:

  • The child may feel a little warm.
  • You think the child might have a fever, but you're not sure.

An illness plan for people with diabetes usually covers things like:

  • How often to test blood sugar and what the target range is.
  • Whether and how to adjust the dose and timing of insulin or other diabetes medicines.
  • What to do if you have trouble keeping food or fluids down.
  • When to call your doctor.

The plan is designed to help keep your diabetes in control even though you are sick. When you have diabetes, even a minor illness can cause problems.

It is easy for your diabetes to become out of control when you are sick. Because of an illness:

  • Your blood sugar may be too high or too low.
  • You may not be able take your diabetes medicine (if you are vomiting or having trouble keeping food or fluids down).
  • You may not know how to adjust the timing or dose of your diabetes medicine.
  • You may not be eating enough or drinking enough fluids.

Blood in the stool can come from anywhere in the digestive tract, such as the stomach or intestines. Depending on where the blood is coming from and how fast it is moving, it may be bright red, reddish brown, or black like tar.

A little bit of bright red blood on the stool or on the toilet paper is often caused by mild irritation of the rectum. For example, this can happen if you have to strain hard to pass a stool or if you have a hemorrhoid.

A large amount of blood in the stool may mean a more serious problem is present. For example, if there is a lot of blood in the stool, not just on the surface, you may need to call your doctor right away. If there are just a few drops on the stool or in the diaper, you may need to let your doctor know today to discuss your symptoms. Black stools may mean you have blood in the digestive tract that may need treatment right away, or may go away on its own.

Certain medicines and foods can affect the colour of stool. Diarrhea medicines (such as Pepto-Bismol) and iron tablets can make the stool black. Eating lots of beets may turn the stool red. Eating foods with black or dark blue food colouring can turn the stool black.

If you take aspirin or some other medicine (called a blood thinner) that prevents blood clots, it can cause some blood in your stools. If you take a blood thinner and have ongoing blood in your stools, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.

Many prescription and non-prescription medicines can cause belly pain or cramping. A few examples are:

  • ASA, ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), and naproxen (such as Aleve).
  • Antibiotics.
  • Antidiarrheals.
  • Laxatives.
  • Iron supplements.

Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.

Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:

  • Passing out (losing consciousness).
  • Being very sleepy or hard to wake up.
  • Not responding when being touched or talked to.
  • Breathing much faster than usual.
  • Acting confused. The child may not know where he or she is.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

HomeTreatment

RelatedInformation

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

HomeTreatment

RelatedInformation

Swallowed or Inhaled Objects

Post-Operative Problems

Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older

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