When Stomach Pain Is and Is Not an Emergency

Reviewed on 9/10/2020

When is stomach pain not an emergency?

There are many causes of stomach pain and some are mild and some more serious.
There are many causes of stomach pain and some are mild and some more serious.

Most stomach pains are harmless. They may be caused by overeating, gas or indigestion. If your pain is short-term, goes away after passing gases or stools and with over-the-counter products (laxative and antacids) or home remedies, there is nothing to worry about.

When is stomach pain an emergency?

If your belly pain is severe, doesn't go away or it keeps coming back, talk to your doctor.

You may have belly pain because of some problem that needs to be treated immediately. You should contact your doctor in an emergency rather than use self-care if you have the following

  • Pain accompanied by a fever over 38.3°C or 101°F
  • Severe pain, fainting or inability to move
  • Pain that starts all over the belly but settles into one area, especially the lower right  part of the belly
  • Extremely tender-to-the-touch and swollen belly
  • Pain lasting for more than a few hours
  • Extreme discomfort/pain in the belly
  • Unable to keep food down for more than two days
  • Continuous nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Signs of dehydration, including not passing urine or passing frequent dark-coloured urine and being very thirsty
  • Vomiting blood or a black material
  • Black or bloody bowel movements
  • No bowel movement, especially if you're also vomiting
  • Unable to pass gas
  • Pain when you pee or need to urinate often
  • Pain that seems to come from the testicles
  • Continuing symptoms despite a full course of prescription or over-the-counter medications
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pregnancy

It may be dangerous if you have the following

How does my doctor figure out the cause of stomach pain?

How will my doctor treat my stomach pain?

Your doctor may give you drugs to relieve pain and advise changes in your diet and lifestyle.

  • Dietary changes: Your doctor may suggest eliminating wheat, beans, dairy and fruit sugar. The doctor may suggest eating a high-fiber diet.
  • You may get antispasmodics, pain relievers, inflammation-relieving medicines or laxatives, antacids, antidiarrheals and/or drugs that inhibit digestive acids (proton pump inhibitors [PPIs]).
  • Sometimes, you may get antidepressants or narcotic agents if you have nonorganic abdominal pain.
  • Your doctor may follow up with you to
    • Reassess treatment after three to six weeks
    • Assess your psychosocial status that may be connected to your gut illness
    • Examine additional laboratory and radiological tests
    • Refer you to a specialist or a pain clinic

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References
Medscape Medical Reference

World Gastroenterology Organisation


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