Abdominal cramps are common, as most people will experience them at one time or another. Abdominal cramps are sharp pains in the stomach and lower abdominal area. If the pain is severe enough to prompt a visit to the doctor, most people describe it as a stomach ache--or, for children, a tummy ache. Mild abdominal cramps may dissipate on their own, depending on the cause. However, more severe abdominal cramps require treatment to obtain relief.
Abdominal cramps that are a symptom of another condition, such as a digestive disorder, intestinal gas or a viral infection, may clear up on their own or dissipate once the condition is treated. Some abdominal cramps that are mild may dissipate on their own within a few hours or a day. If abdominal cramps persist, a mild pain reliever can help. People with abdominal cramps should avoid aspirin, ibuprofen and narcotic pain medications because they can further irritate the stomach. Acetaminophen is a gentler pain medication that is safe for long-term use. Healthy individuals can take a maximum of 4,000 mg of acetaminophen per day. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, patients with liver issues can take acetaminophen, but should limit their daily intake to 2,000 mg. Tylenol is a commonly available form of acetaminophen. A person should always check with his doctor before taking a pain medication and keep his doctor updated on the frequency and duration when taking it.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking medications designed specifically for stomach conditions that can be purchased over the counter and used at home. Tagamet and Pepcid are two commonly used medications that relieve abdominal cramps. Tagamet, generically known as cimetidine, and Pepcid, generically known as famotidine, belong to a class of drugs called histamine receptor antagonists. Drugs like Tagamet and Pepcid are designed to reduce the levels of acid in the stomach, which may be causing abdominal cramps. If it appears that these medications are worsening abdominal cramps, patients should stop using them.
Depending on the cause of the abdominal cramps, lifestyle changes may prevent further pain and inflammation. People should drink plenty of water and avoid eating heavy meals of spicy, rich foods. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol can also prevent abdominal cramps from getting worse.