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Can A Flare Last Only Hours?

Is there such a thing as a flare that lasts only a few hours? I always understood flares in terms of weeks or months. My husband, who has had Crohn's for 5+ years, routinely gets periods of high intensity pain that cause vomitting and inability to funtion to the point where he goes to the ER for pain management. All his labs and xrays always come back normal and once they give him pain meds and anti nausea drugs, he's fine, so they have started telling him it must just be a bad flare. I am skeptical based on the short duration. Does anyone have insight or experience? Nights in the ER are getting old (and expensive!).

Thank you! Always grateful.


Staff member
New York, USA
You can have an acute 'flare' - when my symptoms were not under control, for the most part I could function ok, but I would experience bouts of extreme pain that would leave me unable to do anything besides concentrate on breathing until they pain was over - that was most likely caused by food etc going past an area that was inflamed etc.....

You can also flare and have constant symptoms, or even no outward sypmtoms.....

Is your husband on any type of medication regimen? If so, it sounds like it is not keeping htings under control and a consult with his GI is in order.....the acute 'flares' are the sign that all is not well and if they continue can lead to more damage...


Forum Monitor
That's a good question. I've never really thought about it.

I've always attributed anything that lasted 24 hours or less to a bug. (Joint pain, fatigue, stomach upset, etc.)

I'm interested to see what others think.
Lisa - good point. He's recently started with a new GI and is taking Pentasa (about a month or so) and they just added Entocort. I feel things have gone further downhill since the steroid was introduced. He's on a low residue diet supported with a multivitamin and iron pull, but his nutrition is terrible. I would agree that things are not in a good place overall (fluid retention due to low blood protein associated with malnutrition, frequent gas pains and cramping, fatigue, etc). He gets scared each time thinking he has a bowel obstruction due to the pain and vomitting because it lasts for hours and does not relent and therefore proceeds to the ER.
I've experienced similar bouts. My GI explained it as food/waste moving through an area of inflammation/ulceration/narrowing. I would ask for a Rx for an anti-nausea med for those bouts, and once nausea is under control, warm liquids can help with pain: hot tea, etc. Also hot bath with belly fully submerged. Esp if it's just hours. I certainly have had my share of ER visits for pain management, but if he's looking for a way to try managing at home when they aren't as severe, I would try a few of those suggestions!
I've experienced similar bouts. My GI explained it as food/waste moving through an area of inflammation/ulceration/narrowing.
I agree with this. A flare is inflamation / ulcerations of the bowel. I would not think it would start and heel itself in a few hours, especially ulcerations.
for me i find that if I am having increased symptoms for only a few hours it tends to be IBS, as opposed to IBD. I have both so sometimes it is hard to tell the difference since symptoms tend to be similar, but I have found that my UC flares are more long term and progressive whereas IBS is more short term and resolves more on its own or with some as needed meds to treat the symptoms. Something to consider :)
I am undiagnosed but certainly feel I have short lived flare ups. I count a flare up as having symptoms other than what is normal for me day to day.

If i go a few more times than normal I take no notice of it.

If I have one of my "guts decide they don't want anything in them" I count that as a flare up for me. Means several hours of intense pain, D and nausea.

After I am so cleaned out I usually become dehydrated and need rehydration sachets the next day.

Once the D at least has finished I may be able to eat normally the next day or it may be as long as 10 days before I can keep in 2 meals a day even with very carefully "nursing" my system.

Maybe the shorter version is more of an attack than a flare- but how do you begin to distinguish the two?
None of my flares are short lived. Intense pain, nausea, occasional vomiting. Wipes me out. Last no fewer than 5 days
I used to have partial obstructions all the time, requiring ER visits almost monthly at one point. Nausea, vomiting and pain all at extreme levels. I say partial obstruction because they always cleared with the use of a ng tube. I understand his fear. Stress exacerbated the flare.
I've experienced similar bouts. My GI explained it as food/waste moving through an area of inflammation/ulceration/narrowing.
This explains why I would wake up in the morning and feel fine. Then I would get worse as the day goes on.By the end of the day I would be doubled up in agony, going to the ER.