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Abdominal pain in children - advice for parents/carers

Patient information A-Z


Your child has been seen in our Emergency Department with abdominal pain (tummy pain) and is now being discharged home. Most abdominal pain in children is not serious and gets better by itself.

Unfortunately, they can still develop a problem requiring admission to hospital, including acute appendicitis

What you can try at home

See if your child will rest, and if it helps the pain:

  • Encourage your child to attempt to drink clear fluids regularly
  • Encourage your child to sit on the toilet, to see if passing urine or a stool (poo) helps
  • Give your child some pain relief such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen (as per the manufactures instructions) to see if it helps.

If these things do not help and your child has any of the problems listed below, please contact your local doctor or return to the emergency department

  • The pain increases and is severe (for example preventing sleep), and persists for a prolonged period for example several hours
  • The pain returns frequently and regularly
  • Your child has a high temperature, for example greater than 38.5C, or has ‘chills' or shaking (rigors)
  • Your child has persistent vomiting and is unable to eat and drink, or if any of the vomit has blood or is green
  • Your child is more tired than normal, and is not as responsive or as active as usual
  • Your child develops a rash or becomes very pale
  • Your child has difficulty passing urine
  • Your child initially attended the Emergency Department because of an injury to his/her tummy and the pain is getting worse
  • Your son is now also complaining of pain in his scrotum

Planned reassessment - Ambulatory care clinic

Depending on your child’s condition and findings from tests in the emergency department, it may be advised that your child returns on the following day for re-assessment, in the paediatric ambulatory care clinic.

Re-assessment will include checking your child’s observations e.g. temperature, and re-examination by one of the surgical doctors, some tests may also be repeated. The outcome of the reassessment may be discharge, or an admission to hospital, so we would advise bringing an overnight bag with you.

If you have been advised to attend for re-assessment please attend Addenbrooke’s Hospital with your child at 10am the following morning.

Location: Monday to Friday; Clinic 6 outpatient department, level 2

Saturday/Sunday/Bank Holiday; Please contact Patient flow manager on 07540 693036 to confirm the location.

In addition please ensure:

  1. Your child does not eat or have any milk or fruit juice based drinks after 04:00
  2. From 04:00 your child has clear fluid drinks only (water or weak squash)
  3. Your child attends with a full bladder as urine tests may be needed.

Every effort will be made by the surgical team to see your child as soon as possible, however, please anticipate you may need to remain at the hospital for at least 2-4 hours, or longer in some instances.

If your child’s symptoms get better overnight, and you do not plan to come back for re-assessment, please phone the Patient flow manager on 07540 693036 to let us know.

If you child’s symptoms get worse overnight and you are concerned please return to the emergency department.

What are the most common causes of abdominal pain?

Tummy pain can by caused by any of the organs inside the tummy:

  • Non-specific abdominal pain: pain that gets better by itself, without any treatment or any definite cause found.
  • Acute appendicitis: inflammation of the appendix.
  • Gastroenteritis: a condition caused by a bacteria or virus inside the bowel
  • Mesenteric adenitis: inflammation of ‘glands’ inside the tummy. Often starts with a ‘viral-like’ illness.
  • Urinary tract infection: infection in the urine usually confirmed by testing a sample of urine.
  • Constipation: infrequent passing of a stool (poo) which can cause a build-up in the colon.
  • Testicular torsion: twisting of a boy’s testicle, occasionally causing pain in the tummy alone

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Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151