A stomach ache usually refers to cramps or a dull ache in the belly (abdomen). It is normally short lived and caused by a minor upset or bug.
Severe abdominal pain is a greater cause for concern. If it starts suddenly and unexpectedly, it should be regarded a medical emergency, especially if the pain is concentrated in a particular area, such as the lower right side of your abdomen (this could be your appendix – see below for more information). Call your GP as soon as possible or go to your nearest hospital accident and emergency department if this is the case.
Stomach cramps due to trapped wind
Stomach cramps are often due to trapped wind and bloating. This is an extremely common problem that can be embarrassing but is easily dealt with – your chemist will be able to recommend a product, such as charcoal tablets, which can be bought over the counter to relieve the wind.
Sudden stomach cramps with diarrhoea
If your stomach cramps have started recently and you also have diarrhoea, the cause is probably a tummy bug (gastroenteritis). This means you have a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel, which your immune system will usually fight off after a few days. A common cause of gastroenteritis is a norovirus.
Severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea that make you feel very ill (for example, causing chills or a fever) could be due to a more serious infection, such as food poisoning. This also usually gets better on its own without treatment.
If your stomach cramps and diarrhoea continue, you may have a long-term condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome