Back to Living Real Change
A runner having chest pain.

Minor health issue or major emergency?

If you have chest pain or a stomachache, how do you know if it’s indigestion, stress or something more serious? Here’s a quick guide for when to seek medical attention. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you are concerned, call your doctor or 9-1-1.

Appendicitis vs. stomachache

If you have abdominal pain, you may wonder if you have appendicitis. Pain in your belly can be caused by many conditions, such as a food sensitivity, stress or anxiety. However, if you have a stomachache along with the following symptoms, it’s time to go to the emergency department or call 9-1-1:

  • Dull pain near your bellybutton or the upper abdomen that becomes more severe as it moves toward the lower right abdomen

  • Difficulty passing gas

  • Fever of 99 to 102 degrees

  • Loss of appetite

  • Swelling in the abdominal area

Even if you don’t have these symptoms, see your doctor if you have recurring abdominal pain. He or she can rule out a more serious condition.

Heart attack vs. heartburn

Both heartburn and a heart attack can cause chest discomfort. Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person, but the more symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you are having a heart attack. Call 9-1-1 right away if you have:

  • Persistent chest discomfort or pain, particularly in the left side or center of your chest, that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and then returns

  • Discomfort in other areas of the body, such as in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach

  • Shortness of breath

  • Cold sweat

  • Nausea

  • Lightheadedness

  • Paleness

  • Feeling more tired than usual for no reason (a more common heart attack symptom in women)

  • An impending sense of “doom”

  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat

You may have heartburn if you have the following symptoms:

  • A burning feeling in your chest and upper abdomen

  • Discomfort in your food pipe that begins after you eat or while you are lying in bed, particularly if you ate less than two hours before going to sleep

  • Discomfort that improves when you take antacids

  • Regurgitation, or your stomach contents coming back up into your throat

  • A sour or unpleasant taste in your mouth, especially when lying down

If you aren’t sure, call 9-1-1 or your doctor to be on the safe side.

Heart arrhythmia vs. anxiety

Symptoms of a heart arrhythmia, or heart rhythm disorder, like atrial fibrillation can be nearly identical to those of a panic attack or anxiety. Symptoms include:

  • A racing heartbeat or fluttering feeling in the chest

  • Breathlessness

  • Fatigue

If you think you may have atrial fibrillation or anxiety, talk to your doctor. He or she can determine a diagnosis to correctly treat and manage your symptoms.

The bottom line: Go with your gut (no pun intended) and call 9-1-1 or your physician if something doesn’t feel right. It’s best to err on the side of caution.

Get more health and wellness tips from Living Better.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

Schedule your appointment online

Piedmont App

Download the Piedmont Now app

  • Directions
  • Indoor Hospital Navigation
  • Find & Save Physicians
  • Online Scheduling

Download the app today!

Get the Piedmont Now on Google Play Get the Piedmont Now on iTunes App Store