Symptom Guide: Abdominal pain
Decipher the possible causes of your baby’s abdominal pain and know what to do




Pulling legs up, arching back, writhing pain. Also frequent spitting up and vomiting. During feeds may retch or cough, unable to keep milk down.

Gastric reflux is the result of the malfunction of the oesophageal sphincter valve used to keep food in the stomach from entering back up the oesophagus. Gastric reflux is usually the result of your baby still getting used to the feeding and digestive process or a poorly developed oesophageal sphincter.

Babies grow out of gastric reflux by a year. Monitor the condition closely as it could result in weight loss with your baby struggling to keep food down. If so seek medical advice for a diagnosis and treatment solutions.

Fewer bowel movements than normal or none in three days. Hard, dry stools that are painful to pass.

Constipation may be caused by formula. Note breastfed babies hardly get constipated. Can arise when solid foods are started at 4 to 6 months old. Also caused by dehydration or could reveal rare medical conditions.

See your doctor for advice. Try gently massaging baby’s abdominal region below the navel and exercising his legs in a pedaling motion. Ask your doctor about switching formulas, add more fibre to the diet with veggies, barley or oat cereals.

Swollen hard belly, cramping, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, chills, achiness, blood in stools, dehydration, crying and fussing.

Possibly stomach flu (gastroenteritis) or food poisoning. Stomach flu is usually the bacterial infection of the digestive tract from ingesting contaminated food and drink. Similarly food poisoning is caused by contaminated foods and drink. Depending on the type of bacteria, these conditions could be mild lasting a few hours or very serious taking weeks to get over.

See a doctor for treatment if it could be gastro or food poisoning. He will give a confirmed diagnosis and relevant antibiotic treatment. For food poisoning the doctor may test blood, stool and leftover food to identify the bacteria. Some ways to minimise the risk of food-borne bacteria: always wash hands before handling food; wash uncooked meat thoroughly and cook well.

Stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, swelling of lips and face. Dry itchy rash on face, arms and legs. Respiratory problems.

A food allergy is when the immune system regards certain ingested foods as a threat to the body. Most allergies are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts (like walnuts, Brazil nuts, and cashews), fish (such as tuna, salmon, and cod), and shellfish (like lobster, shrimp, and crab).

If there’s severe swelling and trouble breathing, see a doctor. Children can outgrow food allergies. Breast feeding may help protect against allergies. Introduce baby to one new food at a time and wait for several days to see if there are any allergic reactions.

Swollen stomach, sudden twisting of the body and drawing up of the legs from pain, vomiting, mucus-covered and bloody stools. Dehydration.

Intussusception refers to an intestinal blockage where part of the small intestine slides into the next, just like how a telescope does. No known cause. Affects 5 month to 3 year olds.

Call for an ambulance right away. Emergency treatment is critical. Treatment involves pushing back the intestine via a quick air or barium enema. If intestine is torn, then surgery will be needed.

Writhing pain, evident lump in the genital or navel area – mostly visible when your baby is active or crying. Lump grows large, hardens and turns a darkish colour.

A hernia is when organs or tissue move out of place. An inguinal hernia typically occurs in boy babies and in the genital region. The thumb-size lump is when a loop of intestine protrudes through an abdominal passage that should have otherwise closed before birth. Umbilical hernias are common in girls. In the womb, a small opening in the abdominal wall below the navel forms that should close as your baby matures. When it doesn’t, a hole the size of a fingertip forms.

It’s best to seek medical attention urgently. An inguinal hernia will require minor surgery. For an umbilical hernia as long as its not swollen or tender, remains soft and easily pressed in and baby has no discomfort, there should be no problem. The hernia goes away by 2 to 5 years old.

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