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Belly Pain

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You wake up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps, clutch a pillow and curl your body around it. That helps a little and you go back to sleep. But in the morning, the pain is still there. "Ouch, I have a stomachache!" you tell your mom or dad.

That's when the questions begin: Do you feel like you're going to throw up? Has it been hard for you to go to the bathroom lately? Did you have diarrhea in the night? Does it hurt anywhere else? Does it hurt so much you can't stand up? Are you worried about anything at school? Your mom or dad asks all these questions because lots of different things could cause pain in your belly or abdomen.

Keep reading to find out what belly pain is, what causes it, and what you can do to feel better.

All About the Abdomen

When you get a pain in your stomach, it might be an actual problem right in your stomach, but not necessarily. Your abdomen is more than your stomach. It's more than your intestines. It's the whole area between your chest and your pelvic (hip) bones.

Inside your abdomen, you have your stomach and your intestines, along with lots of other organs: bladder, kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas, gallbladder, appendix, and adrenal glands.

All of these organs aren't just bouncing around all over the place inside you — they're held together inside you by a bag-like membrane called your peritoneum (say: pare-ih-tuh-NEE-um). This two-layered membrane also separates these organs from your outer abdominal muscles. Three layers of muscles — front, back, and side — support this "case" of organs and protect them.

Types of Tummy Troubles

A kid might feel belly pain many reasons, including:

A Pain in the Brain

If there is no physical reason for you to have abdominal pain, the pain in your gut may really be a pain in your brain. If you're stressed about something, you can get sharp pains in your stomach. Lots of kids do!

If you think this is happening to you, sit down with someone you trust and talk about what's going on in your life. Are you worried about a bully at school? Are your parents fighting a lot? Did you do something you wish you hadn't? Are you worried that you won't get good grades? Talk it out. Many times, stressful worries become less stressful when they're out in the open — instead of inside your stomach.

When you talk, make sure you find out what you can do about having less stress in your life so you can get rid of that painful nervous stomach.

Bye-Bye, Bellyaches

Your doctor will first ask you some questions, examine you, and maybe do some tests. Your doctor may suggest you take some medicine or might give you special instructions for eating to help your body heal the bellyache.

If the doctor suspects you might have appendicitis, he or she may want to take a small sample of your blood and have it tested. Or, the doctor may ask you to have an X-ray, ultrasound, or CAT scan. These tests give the doctor more information about what's going on inside you. If it turns out that you have appendicitis, you will need an operation called an appendectomy.

If stress seems to be causing your stomach problems, your doctor may recommend a specialist, such as a psychologist. These experts can help kids figure out the source of the stress and help them come up with some ideas for how to fix the problems or handle them better.

If you'd like to prevent bellyaches, here are some good tips to follow:

If you have a bellyache, be sure to let an adult know what's going on!

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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