Gallstone symptoms in children

Updated April 17, 2017

The gallbladder is a small organ that holds bile. It's located just under the liver and along with the pancreas and liver makes up the biliary system. These organs help produce and store bile and enzymes that help the body break down fats in the liver. Gallstones are more common in adults, but children can develop them. While any child can develop gallstones, according to the Seattle Children's Hospital, children with inherited blood problems, obesity or a family history of gallstones are at a higher risk. Gallstones are solid particles that form in the bile and can range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. While most gallstones aren't symptomatic and don't cause problems, if there are a lot of them or a large one, it can cause discomfort.

Abdomen Pain

According to eMedicine Health, pain in the upper-right side of the abdomen is the most common symptom of gallstones in children. Pain associated with gallstones will intensify after the child eats a fatty meal because the fat in the food causes the gallbladder to contract. The intensified pain may last for several hours and will usually go away on its own. However, the pain will return with each gallbladder attack.

Back Pain

Since older children are able to pinpoint their pain easier, they may complain of back pain or shoulder pain. This will be accompanied by pain in the upper right abdominal area.


If the gallstones move out of the bladder, they can cause blockage to any one of the ducts connecting to the gallbladder, pancreas or liver. This can cause the child to have a feeling of nausea and in some cases vomit. If vomiting continues for any prolonged period of time, it can lead to the child's body becoming dehydrated. More fluid than normal should be consumed to keep the body properly hydrated.


A fever is the body's natural way of saying something is wrong. It can occur anytime the body is fighting an infection and can also be a sign that a gallstone is causing a problem somewhere in the body. The fever will normally be accompanied by other symptoms, and if the child is suspected to have gallstones, an ultrasound can be done by a physician to confirm the condition and properly treat it.


Jaundice is a yellowish tint to the eyes and skin. This is caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is excreted in bile, so if gallstones are becoming a problem, the it could make the child's skin have a yellowish tint that can also appear in the whites of the eyes.

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About the Author

Emily Retherford has been a full-time writer since 2009. She specializes in travel, parenting, fashion and beauty with work appearing on various online publications.