Abdominal pain (tummy ache)
Tummy ache in children is common. Most children do not require treatment and the pain will get better by itself.
- Common causes of tummy ache include constipation, a water works infection (urinary tract infection) and tummy bugs (gastroenteritis).
- Less common causes include appendicitis.
Most children with chronic abdominal pain never have a cause diagnosed.
Check if your child has any red symptoms:
- Your baby becomes pale and floppy.
- Becomes drowsy or difficult to wake.
- Vomit with blood (bright red or dark brown) or bile (dark green – colour of spinach or sprouts).
- Develops severe pain despite pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
- Has testicular pain (in boys).
Actions to take if your child has any red symptoms
- Your child may require emergency treatment.
- You should call 999 or take them to your NEAREST Emergency Department where they can be assessed.
If there are no red symptoms, check if your child has any amber symptoms:
- Your baby develops a swollen tummy.
- Has blood in their poo or wee.
- Experiences constant pain for more than one day despite painkillers.
- Has a fever or symptoms continuing for more than five days.
- Becomes increasingly thirsty or is weeing significantly more or less than normal.
- Develops yellow skin or eyes.
- Has weight loss.
Options if your child has any amber symptoms
Your child does not need to be taken to the Emergency Department immediately, but you should seek medical advice today.
- ring your GP surgery during their usual opening hours
- contact the out of hours GP if the surgery is closed
If symptoms continue for four hours or more and you have not been able to speak to your GP or the out of hours GP, consider going to your nearest Emergency Department.
If your child develops any of the red symptoms above, go to your nearest Emergency Department.
- Your baby is alert and interacts with you.
- Develops diarrhoea and vomiting but no red or amber signs.
- Experiences pain associated with menstruation in a girl (periods).
- Is frequently constipated.
If no red or amber symptoms are present:
- your child does not seem to have any symptoms of serious illness or injury
- you can get general advice on the NI Direct website or from your local pharmacy
If your child develops any of the red or amber symptoms above, follow the advice in these sections.
How you can help manage your child’s tummy ache at home
- Offer your child a normal diet and plenty of fluids.
- Give them pain relief such as paracetamol (Calpol) and / or ibuprofen.
- If their pain is not controlled with simple pain relief, if they develop jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), have a swollen tummy, are peeing more or less than usual or have blood in their poo or wee, you should arrange for them to be seen urgently by a medical practitioner. Call your GP surgery or go to the Emergency Department.
- If your child also has runny poos (diarrhoea), try to avoid them getting dehydrated.
Download this abdominal pain information sheet – please note NHS 111 is not available in Northern Ireland.
Download this diarrhoea and vomiting information sheet – please note NHS 111 is not available in Northern Ireland.
- If it is non-urgent, speak to your local pharmacist or health visitor.
- Alternatively, you can contact your GP practice and a qualified member of the clinical team will check whether your child needs to be seen urgently. Out of hours GP details are available here.
- You should only call 999 or go your nearest Emergency Department in critical or life-threatening situations.
- See our section: How does the Children’s Emergency Department Work?