Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older
The cause of abdominal problems, or belly problems, can be hard to find. Sometimes minor and serious belly problems start with the same symptoms. The good news is that most of these problems are minor. In these cases, home treatment is all that's needed.
How severe your pain is, its location, and other symptoms you have may help find what is causing the pain.
Now and then, severe pain that starts all of a sudden may be a symptom of a rupture of the stomach or intestines (perforation), torsion of the testicle or ovary, a kidney stone, gallbladder disease, or blood vessel problems, such as an aortic aneurysm. The pain caused by appendicitis or gallbladder disease may get worse when you move or cough. Pain that gets worse when you move or cough and that doesn't seem to be caused by strained muscles is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. A visit to a doctor is usually needed when severe belly pain starts suddenly, or when new and different mild pain slowly gets worse over several hours or days.
After a minor injury to the belly, you may have pain, nausea, or vomiting that often gets better in a few minutes. Pain and other symptoms that start, keep going, or get worse after an injury may mean that an organ in the belly has been damaged.
Many medicines can cause belly pain. Some also cause side effects, such as constipation, which can make belly pain worse.
Belly symptoms can also occur from an infection passed on by animals or while traveling to a foreign country.
Some belly symptoms have been linked to ovarian cancer. These symptoms include belly or pelvic pain, increased belly size or bloating, trouble eating, and feeling full quickly. If you have one or more of these symptoms, and it occurs almost daily for more than 2 or 3 weeks, talk with your doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
With cramping pain in the belly:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:
With a high fever:
With a moderate fever:
With a mild fever:
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For adults and children age 12 and older, these are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild, according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth) temperature
A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.5°F (0.3°C) to 1°F (0.6°C) lower than an oral temperature.
Armpit (axillary) temperature
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Pain in adults and older children
It is easy for your diabetes to become out of control when you are sick. Because of an illness:
An illness plan for people with diabetes usually covers things like:
The plan is designed to help keep your diabetes in control even though you are sick. When you have diabetes, even a minor illness can cause problems.
You can get dehydrated when you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:
Severe dehydration means:
Moderate dehydration means:
Mild dehydration means:
Blood in the stool can come from anywhere in the digestive tract, such as the stomach or intestines. Depending on where the blood is coming from and how fast it is moving, it may be bright red, reddish brown, or black like tar.
A little bit of bright red blood on the stool or on the toilet paper is often caused by mild irritation of the rectum. For example, this can happen if you have to strain hard to pass a stool or if you have a hemorrhoid.
A large amount of blood in the stool may mean a more serious problem is present. For example, if there is a lot of blood in the stool, not just on the surface, you may need to call your doctor right away. If there are just a few drops on the stool or in the diaper, you may need to let your doctor know today to discuss your symptoms. Black stools may mean you have blood in the digestive tract that may need treatment right away, or may go away on its own.
Certain medicines and foods can affect the color of stool. Diarrhea medicines (such as Pepto-Bismol) and iron tablets can make the stool black. Eating lots of beets may turn the stool red. Eating foods with black or dark blue food coloring can turn the stool black.
If you take aspirin or some other medicine (called a blood thinner) that prevents blood clots, it can cause some blood in your stools. If you take a blood thinner and have ongoing blood in your stools, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Symptoms of a heart attack may include:
For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause belly pain or cramping. A few examples are:
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Most of the time, abdominal pain, or belly pain, improves with home treatment, and you don't need to see a doctor. Specific home treatment for mild belly pain often depends on the symptoms you have along with the pain, such as diarrhea or nausea and vomiting.
If you have mild belly pain without other symptoms, the following steps may help you feel better.
You may find that taking small, frequent sips of a drink is easier on your stomach than trying to drink a whole glass at once. Don't drink fizzy drinks such as soda pop.
This will help you get enough nutrition.
These medicines may irritate your stomach and make pain worse.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
June 6, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: June 6, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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