There can be a huge variety of reasons for abdominal pain, ranging from minor causes such as food poisoning to serious conditions affecting the organs or other structures in the abdomen.
Your aim as a first aider is to relieve the pain and discomfort and obtain medical help if needed.
First Aid Classes recommend making the patient comfortable and easing any difficulty in breathing by sitting them up. A hot water bottle is useful to help relieve discomfort in the abdomen if one is available.
If the abdominal pain is severe, or if the patient also vomits or has a fever, get urgent medical assistance.
COMMON ABDOMINAL CONDITIONS
There can be a vast number of reasons for abdominal pain.
Food poisoning is usually caused by bacteria on food or drink. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, cramping abdominal pains, diarrhoea, headache or fever. It can in severe cases lead to impaired consciousness and shock. Symptoms can appear within hours or over a day or two.
Vomiting and diarrhoea are usually caused by an irritation of the digestive system. They can occur separately or together, but either way can result in dehydration if fluids are not replaced.
A hernia, also known as a rupture, is a soft swelling where a loop of intestine pushes through the muscle. This is usually caused by continual coughing, straining with bowel movements or lifting heavy weights. This condition is not always painful, however if it is accompanied by severe pain and vomiting then the hernia may be strangulated. This means it has been trapped and deprived of its blood supply therefore urgent surgery will be needed.
Distension (widening) or obstruction in the intestine can cause colic. This type of pain comes and goes in waves, but can be agonising and may also cause vomiting.
Appendicitis is an inflamed appendix and is common in children. The pain is often in the right lower abdomen. St Mark James First Aid manual lists other symptoms as nausea, vomiting, fever and bad breath.
If the appendix bursts, or the intestine is damaged, the intestinal contents will leak into the abdominal cavity and cause inflammation. This condition is called Peritonitis and can be life-threatening. It causes a sudden, intense abdominal pain which increases on movement or pressure on the abdomen. If untreated, it will result in shock.
With abdominal pain, there are many different reasons that can be the cause therefore the patient must not be given any food or drink, smoke, or take any medication. If there is a problem with any internal structures or organs the patient may need surgery, and therefore St Mark James Training teaches you to starve the patient in preparation for this.
However, with vomiting, diarrhoea and food poisoning the patient will be at risk of dehydration from fluid loss. In these cases, St Mark James Training states the patient should be given water to rehydrate. However, only give the patient something to drink if you are certain of the diagnosis. If you are unsure then always be safe and wait for specialist medical assistance.