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When should I call 9-1-1 if my child has abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain is very common in children. It can be a reaction to food and activity or the symptom of a stomach bug or food poisoning. However, it also can indicate a larger issue. Consider the following to determine if pain is severe enough to go to the emergency room (ER).

Emergency care may be necessary if your child:
  • is inconsolable
  • has pain that is severe and unrelenting
  • is experiencing abdominal tenderness to the touch or if pain radiates down your child's back
Seek emergency care if the pain is accompanied by:
  • fever
  • repeated vomiting
  • significant or bloody diarrhea
  • difficulty rousing
  • no interest in eating or drinking
  • seizures or fainting
  • distended abdomen
David C. Fiore, MD
Family Medicine
Knowing when to call 911 if your child is having abdominal pain can be confusing. Abdominal pain in children can be a sign of something very serious, such as appendicitis or obstructed bowel (blocked intestines), or it can be a very minor problem such as constipation. If your child has fever with abdominal pain it can be something serious, and a visit to a doctor is recommended. Seeing a doctor is also recommended if the pain lasts for more than a day, if there is bloody diarrhea with it or if your child just "doesn't look right."

You should call 911, however, if your child is in severe pain, has a high fever, or you are worried that there is something wrong that could cause serious harm to your child within the next 12 or so hours. Otherwise, getting in to see the doctor is probably wisest.
Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if you think the child has a life-threatening condition.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.