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Stomach Pain is Common

Recurrent abdominal pain in children is one of the most common physical complaints heard by physicians who care for children. Is it the stomach flu or too much pizza? Is it a case of appendicitis or tomorrow's spelling test? These are some of the thoughts that run through parent's minds when their child complains of stomach pain day after day. Diagnosing the cause of your child's repeated stomach discomfort can be difficult for both parents and doctors.

When children with recurrent abdominal pain are thoroughly evaluated, however, only about one in 20 is found to have a physical explanation for the symptoms. The remaining 95 percent have abdominal pain that does not arise from a serious medial condition. Medical textbooks have labeled this problem as "recurrent abdominal pain" and "benign stomachache of childhood." Whatever the term, the pain is truly experienced by the youngster and the child's discomfort is a very frustrating experience for the parents.

Why these children have pain is not completely understood, but psychological factors may play an important role. The muscles of the stomach and intestines are richly supplied with nerves. A child's feelings and state of mind may initiate these nerves to contract, producing painful episodes of cramping. A frustrated, worried or simply unhappy child may manifest these inner feelings with a complaint of stomach pain.

Although a physical cause for recurrent abdominal pain in children is rarely discovered, it is wise to have your child evaluated by the physician to eliminate any possibility that he or she might have another medical condition which causes belly pain. These might include a urinary tract infection, an ulcer or a food allergy.

A careful medical history is one of the most important aspects in evaluating a child with recurrent abdominal pain. In addition to the usual questions concerning a youngster's health history, specific inquiries about the character of the pain are important: How severe? Is it continuous or intermittent? What makes the pain better? What makes it worse? Does it occur only at mealtimes or in relation to eating? Does it occur only in school? Does the pain begin on the weekends? Does it interfere with the child's play? Is there accompanying fever, diarrhea, constipation or other symptoms? Parents' ability to characterize the nature of the complaint is often the key to diagnosis.

Children with benign stomachache of childhood usually have had the problem for a while (months to years). It usually begins in the preschool years; 5 years being the peak age of onset. The pain is more common in girls. The soreness is most commonly located around or just below the navel. The pain episodes, while sometimes severe, usually last only minutes, but can occur for an hour or more. The child seems otherwise healthy and there is usually no vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of energy or fever. Rarely does the pain wake the child up at night, and for t

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