Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Children

What is Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Children

Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) is belly (abdominal) pain that comes and goes for more than 3 months without a known cause.

RAP is common in children. Often, in mild cases, it goes away with age. Some children continue to have problems as they get older.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Respond to your child in the same way each time that he or she has belly pain. Ask your child’s teachers or caregivers to do the same.
  • Try to distract your child from his or her pain, such as with books, activities, or toys.
  • Try to find out if something is causing more stress for your child. Some things that can cause stress include teasing and bullying.
  • Try not to make changes because of your child’s belly pain. Have your child go to school or stay at school during an episode when possible.
  • Keep a diary of when your child’s pain comes, where it is, how long it lasts, and what helps. Make note of whether your child’s pain occurs before or after meals, and list any foods that may have something to do with the pain.

General instructions

  • Watch your child’s pain for any changes.
  • Give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child’s doctor.
  • Make changes to your child’s diet if recommended by your child’s doctor.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your child’s doctor. This is important.

Contact a doctor if:

  • Your child’s pain gets worse.
  • Your child’s pain episodes happen more often than before.
  • Your child wakes up at night because of pain.
  • Your child has pain while eating.
  • Your child has:
    • Heartburn.
    • Watery poop (diarrhea).
    • Trouble pooping (constipation).
    • A sick feeling in his or her stomach (nausea).
    • A fever.
  • Your child loses weight.
  • Your child burps or belches a lot.
  • Your child looks pale, tired, or confused during or after pain episodes.
  • Your child has pain while peeing (urinating) or urinates often.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child throws up (vomits) blood or something that is black or looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your child throws up over and over again and cannot drink without throwing up.
  • Your child has red or black poop (stool).
  • Your child’s belly is swollen or bloated.
  • Your child has pain and tenderness in one part of the belly.
  • Your child who is younger than 3 months has a temperature of 100°F (38°C) or higher.
  • Your child who is older than 3 months has a fever and ongoing (persistent) symptoms.
  • Your child who is older than 3 months has a fever and symptoms that suddenly get worse.

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