Abdominal Pains in Childhood

Pains in the tummy are extremely common in children and almost all children have them at some time. Although they may occasionally indicate a serious condition which needs treatment from a doctor, they are usually an indicator of "stress" in the child.

A good analogy is that of "tension headaches" in adults, and I call these "tension tummies". If you have ever had a real tension headache you will know that the pains are very real but they are related to stress and tension in your life and not to some underlying disease.

Typical Features of "Tension Tummies"

1. Tend to be central in the tummy

2. Feels like a dull ache or 'cramp'

3. Lasts a few minutes to a couple of hours

4. Related to stressful situations in the child's life

Tension Tummies" do not cause:

1. Persistent Fever

2. Rectal Bleeding

3. Poor Growth

4.Weight Loss

5. Anaemia

6. Pains far away from the umbilicus (belly button)


1. Keep a diary of when she/he gets the pain

2. In the diary note when she/he doesn't get the pain

3. Try to discover stresses at school; children are especially vulnerable to bullying and being shouted at

4. Be confident and reassuring that she/he can cope and that all will turn out well.

5. The child must not miss school

Dr B.Shevlin