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It is often quite difficult for young children to show us where their pain is. Because of this, almost any problem in the abdomen can cause tummy pain. However, knowing "where it hurts most", can give us good clues as to the culprit. .

In children common causes of left-sided tummy pain include:

Constipation

  • Very common in children.
  • Means passing hard stools (faeces), with difficulty, less often than normal.
  • Commonly causes pain on the left, over the last part of the colon (descending colon) where stools can get stuck.

See the separate leaflet called Constipation in Children for more information.

Gastroenteritis and food poisoning

  • Cause diarrhoea.
  • May also cause the child to be sick (vomit) and have crampy tummy (abdominal) pains.
  • Pain may be anywhere in the tummy.
  • Pain may ease for a while each time some diarrhoea is passed.

See the separate leaflets called Gastroenteritis in Children and Food Poisoning in Children for more information.

Lactose intolerance

  • Leads to bloating, tummy pain, wind and watery stools after drinking milk or any food containing dairy.
  • Lactose intolerance can sometimes occur for a while after a bout of vomiting or diarrhoea. The condition gets better when the infection is over and the gut lining heals.
  • Some people are born with a tendency to develop it.

See the separate leaflet called Lactose Intolerance for more information.

Mesenteric adenitis

  • In children with infections such as colds, glands within the tummy commonly become inflamed giving them tummy ache. These glands are similar to the ones in the neck that get bigger or painful when we have sore throats.
  • The child may have other symptoms of a cold, such as a runny nose or a sore throat.

See the separate leaflet called Mesenteric Adenitis for more information.

Torsion of the testicle

  • Occurs when a testicle (testis) twists around in the scrotum.
  • It occurs in boys and young men, typically teenage boys.
  • It is unusual over the age of 25 years.
  • Severe pain develops quickly.
  • It can affect either side.
  • If this occurs, you need to go to the emergency department immediately.

See the separate leaflet called Torsion of the Testis for more information.

Coeliac disease

  • Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction of the gut to gluten. Gluten is found in many foods such as pasta and bread.
  • it can cause poor growth or weight loss.
  • Stools may be pale, smelly and difficult to flush away.
  • Pain doesn't always occur but can be anywhere in the tummy. It tends to come and go.

See the separate leaflet called Coeliac Disease for more information.

Causes in Pregnancy

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Further reading and references

  • Cartwright SL, Knudson MP; Evaluation of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Apr 177(7):971-8.

  • Kim JS; Acute Abdominal Pain in Children. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2013 Dec16(4):219-224. Epub 2013 Dec 31.

  • Cartwright SL, Knudson MP; Diagnostic imaging of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Apr 191(7):452-9.

  • Manterola C, Vial M, Moraga J, et al; Analgesia in patients with acute abdominal pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jan 19(1):CD005660. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005660.pub3.

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