Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) with no cause is
defined as at least 3 separate episodes of abdominal pain that occur in a
3-month period. These episodes are often severe, and the child is not able to
do his or her normal activities. It may affect up to 30% of children between
the ages of 4 and 12.
Symptoms of RAP are different for every child and may change with
each episode. Symptoms may include:
Chronic constipation -- when you can’t poop -- is a common digestive problem. You might have considered over-the-counter laxatives to “get things moving,” but you can do plenty to manage chronic constipation without taking medicine. One of the simplest ways is to drink plenty of fluids every day, eat dietary fiber, and exercise.
Severe pain that causes the child
to look pale, become sweaty, or cry and bend over in pain.
that lasts a few minutes or hours.
Pain in the belly button area or
anywhere in the belly.
Pain that may or may not be related to
Pain that occurs anytime of the day or
Abdominal pain that occurs with vomiting, headaches, or pain
in the arms or legs.
Not being hungry like normal or skipping meals
but usually without losing weight.
A physical cause is found in less than 10% of children diagnosed with
RAP. The physical exam and routine tests often do not show any abnormal
problems. As with chronic conditions, RAP may get worse with stress, anger, or
A child with RAP should eat regular meals, not skip any meals, and
not overeat at any one meal. Different foods, such as spicy foods or dairy
foods, may trigger an episode in some children. Your child should not eat any
foods that cause abdominal pain.
It is important to keep your child doing normal activities as much as
possible so that he or she can cope with the symptoms of RAP. Many children are
able to keep their pain under control if they remember it is "just their usual
bellyache" when the pain starts. Be sure that your child has regular meal and
snack times as well as a regular bedtime so he or she gets enough sleep.
About one-third of children with RAP feel better when they recognize
their symptoms and how to deal with them. Another third of children will feel
better but may have other ongoing problems with their intestines or stomach.
Another third will have ongoing episodes of RAP.
Having RAP does not increase the chance of the child having an ulcer
or other intestinal problem as an adult. But any child complaining of
ongoing abdominal pain should be evaluated by a doctor.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this