We’ve all had uncomfortable abdominal pain, but knowing when to visit the ER can be confusing. Stomach pain can have many potential causes—from a less serious pulled muscle to a life-threatening case of appendicitis.
“It’s important to identify the source of your pain and rule out any of the possible life-threatening causes,” said Dr. Doru Georgescu, General/Trauma Surgeon at North Suburban Medical Center. “When the pain is severe enough, you definitely want to be in the care of an expert.”
When you’re in pain, how do you know when to stay home and ride it out or head to the ER? Ask yourself the following questions, and if you answer yes to one or more, consider a trip to the emergency room.
Is my pain severe?
Severe pain means you won’t be able to focus on routine tasks or perform other activities. If pain stops you in your tracks, it might be severe enough to warrant a trip to the ER.
Am I dehydrated or vomiting blood?
While vomiting alone may not be cause for concern, vomiting so much that you become dehydrated can be a serious issue—and so can vomiting blood.
Do I have blood in urine or a bloody stool?
Tell your doctor if you see blood in urine, blood in poop or have dark black stools. These symptoms may be signs that you have more than a simple stomach ache.
Do I have other symptoms?
If abdominal pain spreads to other parts of your body or accompanies more serious symptoms like chest pain or trouble breathing, a trip to the ER may be necessary.
Do I have potentially serious risk factors?
You may be at higher risk for serious complications from stomach pain if you experienced trauma to your abdomen, had surgery, are pregnant or recently gave birth, are on certain medications like chemotherapy, or have other medical conditions that compromise the immune system. If you have one or more of the above risk factors, play it safe and consider going to the ER.
When in doubt, go with your gut. If you’re experiencing severe pain, head to the ER to speak with a doctor trained to evaluate your symptoms.
“Stomach pain and the causes for it are often complex, and a complete evaluation will help provide some clarity,” said Dr. Georgescu. “I encourage people not to wait until something could escalate into an even bigger issue.”
Experiencing stomach pain or a similar emergency?
Rely on an expert in emergency care 24/7/365 at North Suburban Medical Center at our main ER on 9191 Grant Street or at our free-standing ERs at 112th and Sheridan in Westminster or at 128th and Holly in Thornton. Visit