Medical symptoms

Parent Information
Medical symptoms that do not respond fully to medical treatments are common concerns for parents. In younger children, tummy pain and headaches are common and may simply be a normal part of expressing distress when they are transient. For older children, headaches can also be a problem and significant fatigue and muscle aches become more frequent.

When to seek help

When the symptoms last longer or cause more problems with the child or adolescents’ function (at home, school or socially), then it is appropriate to seek help. If a careful assessment with the General Practitioner and/or the Paediatrician does not find a serious medical cause or where symptoms are part of a chronic medical condition that cannot be fully alleviated, a child and adolescent psychiatric consultation may be useful.

Often, a team approach with other health professionals such as psychologists or occupational therapists can be an excellent resource for parents helping children or adolescents with these difficulties.


A clear description of what has happened and noticing any patterns between symptoms and other factors such as stressors and communication can lead to significant improvement for some children and adolescents.

For other children or adolescents, addressing any other emotional and behavioural problems that have occurred with the medical problems is an important element. Chronic medical conditions and symptoms without clear explanations are a source of stress for both the child and their family. In addition, there are a number of therapies that can be helpful, often the focus is on improving the child or adolescent’s function in the face of some ongoing symptoms. Parents are crucial to the success of intervention. Frequently symptoms (such as pain or fatigue) improve after the child or adolescent has increased their activity or school engagement.


Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK): Medically unexplained physical symptoms