Everyone experiences abdominal pain at one time or another. But how do you know if your pain, or that of a loved one, is severe enough that it requires an emergency department visit?

The short answer is, if your “gut” tells you that you need help right away, you should visit the emergency department. If you're not sure whether emergency care is necessary, consider these guidelines.

If you have these symptoms, you may require emergency care

If the pain is severe and unrelenting, your abdomen is tender to the touch or the pain radiates to your back, you should immediately visit the closest emergency department. If the pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should also seek emergency care:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting blood
  • Dark, black stool
  • Unable to keep food down
  • Experiencing chest pain or having difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • A feeling of lightheadedness or that you might pass out

If you meet any of the following conditions and are experiencing severe abdominal pain, you should visit an emergency department right away:

  • Individuals who have undergone gastric bypass surgery
  • Individuals who have had a recent endoscopy or abdominal surgery
  • Women who are pregnant or might be pregnant
  • Individuals over 45 experiencing upper abdominal pain (may indicate a heart attack)

When to Take Your Child to the ER for Abdominal Pain

Most children experience abdominal pain at one time or another. In some circumstances, this pain can be a simple reaction to food and activity or a symptom of stomach flu or food poisoning. In other cases, stomach pain can indicate a larger issue. It is important for parents to be able to recognize the symptoms that may indicate that a child's pain is severe enough to require an emergency department visit.

If your child has these symptoms, emergency care may be necessary:

Seek pediatric ER treatment if the abdominal pain meets the following factors:

  • The child is inconsolable
  • Pain is severe and unrelenting
  • The abdomen is tender to the touch or pain radiates to your child's back

If your child meets any of following conditions and is experiencing abdominal pain, your child should visit an emergency department right away:

  • Fever
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Significant or bloody diarrhea
  • The child is difficult to rouse and has no interest in eating or drinking
  • Seizures or fainting
  • Distended abdomen

Wesley EmergencyCare Network ERs

Online ER Check-in

Patients can complete advance check-in to any of Wesley's four emergency rooms with a free mobile app available for Apple iPhones in iTunes and for Android phones in the Google Play App Store. Patients can also complete advance registration at www.wesleyercheckin.com. Users simply select which Wesley facility they would like to go to and fill out a few required fields. The selected ER will be instantly notified, enabling the ER staff to better prepare for the patient's arrival. The app and website include the facilities' average wait times so patients can better plan their visit.

ER Average Wait Times

ER wait times are approximate and provided for informational purposes only. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

The ER wait time represents the time it takes to see a qualified medical professional, defined as a Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), Physician Assistant (PA) or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP).

ER wait times represent a four-hour rolling average updated every 30 minutes, and is defined as the time of patient arrival until the time the patient is greeted by a qualified medical professional. Patients are triaged at arrival and are then seen by a qualified medical professional in priority order based on their presenting complaint and reason for visit.

Ready Care

Wesley's main emergency department also provides Ready Care services, an “express lane” through the emergency department in a convenient, timely setting. These services are an alternative care route to the regular emergency department where treatment is determined on the severity of the patient's condition. Ready Care is ideal for patients who need immediate care for small emergencies, such as sprains, sore throats, ear infections and rashes. The service area is managed by providers trained in emergency medicine and is fully supervised by board-certified physicians. Patients are referred to the area through the regular emergency department.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911 or seek medical attention immediately.