HCA Midwest Health - January 21, 2021

Is it the stomach flu, or appendicitis in disguise?

Stomach pain is the most well-known clue of appendicitis. It is also a familiar clue of a stomach virus. Both conditions can have similar symptoms making them very difficult to tell apart without a professional medical evaluation. But the earlier appendicitis is caught, the easier it is to treat. An inflamed appendix will likely burst if not removed – making any delay in treatment very risky. So how do you know when you or your loved one needs to head to the closest ER?


The appendix is a worm like organ that hangs off the colon. It is located on the lower right side of a person's body. Appendicitis occurs when the appendix is inflamed and infected. Appendicitis is the most common cause of severe abdominal pain in the United States. It can occur at any age, but is more common in older children, teens and people in their 20's, with most cases occurring between the ages of 10-20. It is the most common condition in children that requires abdominal surgery and is more common in boys than girls.

Appendicitis is the most common cause of severe abdominal pain in the United States.

Appendicitis Symptoms

The early signs of appendicitis are often subtle which is why many times they are brushed to the side. And like anything else, symptoms can vary from person to person, making it even harder to detect. This is in part because the location of the tip of the appendix can vary. For example, if the appendix tip is located toward the front of the body you or your loved one may experience pain toward the lower right of the abdomen. If the tip of the appendix is located more toward the back, you might experience more of a dull abdominal ache.

Some common clues to look for include:

  • Indigestion or diarrhea
  • A mild pain around the belly button that can worsen and move to the lower right side of the belly (movement of pain is seen in about 50%-60% of patients with appendicitis)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting (usually occurring after the start of pain)
  • Fever (usually occurring about 24-48 hours after symptoms begin)
  • Soreness in the lower right side of the belly
  • Pain when moving

Stomach Flu

The stomach flu (gastroenteritis) is a viral infection and a common cause of sickness in both children and adults. It's easily passed from one person to another, and is more common in the winter months when people spend an increasing amount of time indoors. Most of the time it can be treated at home, but in young children, adults over 65 and people with compromised immune systems it can lead to dangerous complications. It can also lead to severe dehydration.

Stomach Flu Symptoms

Symptoms of a stomach bug usually only last for a day or two. Some common clues include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pains and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Low Fever (occurs in approximately half of people)

Emergency Care in Kansas City

Appendicitis is a medical emergency for a person of any age. But the common stomach virus can also progress to an emergency level. If you think there is a reason for concern, it is always better to be safe and seek a professional medical evaluation. HCA Midwest Health has 11 ERs conveniently located throughout the Kansas City area, with short wait times. And all of our ERs are pediatric-ready and staffed with compassionate GI experts ready to uncover the true cause of your child's abdominal pain.

ER Locations in KC