Abdominal pain and stomach ache factsheet


Abdominal pain is very common in children and is often called a stomach or tummy ache. The abdomen is the area of the body that holds organs like the stomach, bowel, kidneys and uterus. Organs in and around the abdomen can cause pain at different times, which can be a symptom of issues including: 

Most of the time, abdominal pain will get better on its own. If abdominal pain is severe, gets worse over time or does not go away, it may be a sign of a more severe issue that a doctor should investigate.

 Signs and symptoms

Abdominal pain can be caused by different abdominal organs or mental health issues like stress and anxiety. Signs and symptoms of abdominal pain can change slightly depending on what is causing the pain.

Some children may be unable to communicate where the pain is coming from, how bad it is or whether anything makes it better or worse.

Common symptoms of abdominal pain in children include:

  • crying or grunting
  • pulling the legs up into the abdomen, also called the fetal position
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • bloating.

Your child may also experience a sharp pain that comes and goes in waves. This is called cramping, and may be a sign of:

See your local doctor as soon as possible if your child is experiencing abdominal pain that:

  • wakes your child up from sleep
  • is found in a specific area - for example, behind the bellybutton
  • moves around the abdomen - for example, travelling from the middle to the lower right
  • doesn't go away
  • gets worse when they move.

Take your child to the nearest emergency department if your child has:


Your child's doctor can diagnose any causes of abdominal pain after an examination and any relevant tests or scans. The doctor may refer you to a specialist or develop a treatment plan depending on what type of pain your child is having.


Abdominal pain is often a symptom of another issue happening in the body. Once your child's doctor has diagnosed the cause of the abdominal pain, they can give you a treatment plan.

If the issue causing the pain is not severe, it can be treated at home. Your doctor may suggest:

  • encouraging your child to drink fluids and rest
  • using simple pain relief medication like paracetamol
  • trying some distraction or relaxation strategies
  • using a warm heat pack on the abdomen.

Always ask your doctor before using any medications, and never give your child aspirin for abdominal pain.

Last updated Monday 11th March 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024