When Stomach Pain Is and Is Not an Emergency


Stomach pain that’s debilitating often requires a trip to the emergency room. Read here to figure out if your symptoms suggest a serious problem that requires immediate medical attention.

Stomach pain can be uncomfortable, intense, and concerning, but it isn’t always an emergency. If you have a stomach bug, constipation, or cramps and bloating, it may pass with rest, easy-to-digest foods, fluids, over-the-counter pain relievers, and a heating pad.

However, in some cases, stomach pain indicates a serious problem that should be addressed by a professional at River Oaks Emergency Room immediately. The following list can help you determine when stomach pain is or is not an emergency.

You’re pregnant

Stomach pain can indicate a serious complication for pregnant women. If your stomach pain is low or accompanied by vaginal bleeding, contact your OB/GYN or call River Oaks ER.

You recently had an abdominal procedure

If you’ve had abdominal surgery or gastric bypass surgery, stomach pain could indicate an infection or surgical complication. Even if your procedure was relatively straightforward, such as a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy, it can also have side effects such as infection or perforation. Seek emergency care right away.

You have a history of heart attack or heart disease

Stomach pain can be a symptom of a heart attack, so be concerned if you have a history of heart disease or are older than 45. Stomach pain may be a serious sign of a heart attack if it’s accompanied by upper body pain, shortness of breath, and chest tightness or pain. Sometimes, the pain of a heart attack reaches into your abdominal area and actually feels like heartburn.

Your pain is in the lower right side of your abdomen

Extreme, debilitating pain that occurs in your lower right abdomen can be a sign of appendicitis, which requires immediate medical attention. If you’re not sure where you’re feeling the pain exactly, but it is seriously intense and prevents you from standing or moving, call River Oaks Emergency Room to determine what type of treatment you should seek.

There’s blood in your vomit or stool

If you are vomiting blood along with experiencing stomach pain, it’s likely an emergency that needs care. Persistent vomiting that won’t let up is possibly an emergency, too. The same is true if you have bloody or tarry (dark red or black) stools. Diarrhea with blood is a concern, but even diarrhea without blood that lasts for more than five days could indicate a problem. Call River Oaks ER right away.

You have a very high fever

If your stomach pain is accompanied by a high fever — usually of 100 degrees F or higher — it could indicate a serious infection. If your fever isn’t super high but persists for several days (and so does your abdominal pain), it’s another reason for concern. Don’t hesitate to call River Oaks ER to review your symptoms, and consider coming in for medical attention.

Be less concerned

If your stomach pain is mild to moderate, it’s likely to resolve on its own — especially if it doesn’t include any of the factors discussed above. But always trust your instincts. If you feel something is off and your stomach pain is just not a passing bug or trapped gas, call River Oaks ER for recommendations as to whether you should seek care.

River Oaks Emergency Room, a Village Emergency Center facility located in Houston, Texas, is open for walk-in patients 24 hours per day, seven days per week. We never close, not even on holidays. A private, freestanding emergency room, River Oaks ER offers all of the same services and care as a hospital emergency room, but with little or no wait time.

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