Stomach ache or appendicitis?

Could your stomach ache be something more serious? Here's how to tell the difference between a stomach ache and appendicitis.

We all know the dangers associated with appendicitis and that stomach pain is often the main symptom. But how do you tell the difference between a bout of indigestion or a stomach bug and appendicitis?

a woman holding her lower stomach

Appendicitis, an inflammation of the appendix, can be life threatening if prompt treatment isn’t sought. Whilst this is rare, it’s important to recognise the signs of appendicitis.

Diagnosing appendicitis can be tricky because the symptoms often mirror those of gastroenteritis . Abdominal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhoea and a fever are symptoms that are present for both conditions. The key difference is that gastro strikes hard and fast – the symptoms mostly disappear as quickly as they come on. If they don’t, it’s time to see a doctor.

Whilst some of the symptoms are similar, the Better Health channel advises that appendicitis can be recognised through taking heed of the following symptoms:

  • Dull pain centered around the navel
  • Dull pain that progresses to a sharp pain in the lower right side of your abdomen
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite

If you or your child are displaying these symptoms its best to seek advice from your doctor who can perform a physical examination.

Remember that children often find it hard to say where their pain is so it’s best to err on the side of caution if your child is complaining of a prolonged stomach ache and pain associated with movement.

If you or your child are diagnosed with appendicitis, you will most likely undergo an operation to remove the appendix. This is known as an appendectomy. Where possible the surgeon will remove the appendix through keyhole surgery which uses several tiny cuts. If this is not possible a small larger incision will be made in your lower abdomen. This is known as an open appendectomy.

To find out more about how your private hospital insurance could help you manage the cost of a procedure like this, take a look at our interactive out-of-pocket costs tool.

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While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).