Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
The appendix is a small finger-shaped structure that is attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. The appendix does not serve any purpose in the body.
The appendix can become infected when it is blocked by something, such as a piece of food that was being digested or if a person has had an intestinal infection. This is known as appendicitis.
There is no known way to prevent appendicitis and the only way to treat it is to remove it surgically. If an infected appendix is not removed, a life-threatening situation occurs because it may burst and spread its infection throughout the abdomen in as little as 48 hours.
Symptoms of appendicitis include:
Sharp, intense pain around the belly button that spreads to the lower right side of the abdomen
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Diarrhea (in small amounts with mucus)
Frequent urination or a strong urge to urinate
Swollen or bloated abdomen (especially in infants)
Many of these symptoms are common signs of other childhood illnesses. Because it can be confused with stomach cramps or indigestion, it is important to contact your child’s doctor.
The pain associated with appendicitis usually begins around the belly button area and may move downward to the right. In appendicitis, pain begins before nausea and vomiting, which is a sign that the child does not have an intestinal infection. The pain may be so intense that it can keep a child up at night. A child with appendicitis may not want to move around because it feels better when he or she lies down and curls up.
For children under 2 years, the most common signs of appendicitis are vomiting and a bloated or swollen abdomen. A child this young may also have abdominal pain, but they are too young to tell adults.
Appendicitis is an emergency and cannot be treated at home. The appendix will need to be removed surgically. It is usually diagnosed through blood testing, as well as through X-rays, ultrasounds or CT Scans. Blood tests show the number of white blood cells present in the body. A high number of white blood cells means that there could be an infection in the body. The doctor may also order other tests, such as an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan. These will allow the doctor to see an image of the appendix.
If the doctor decides that a child has appendicitis, the appendix will need to be removed surgically. Surgical removal of the appendix is called an appendectomy. A person that has an appendectomy will receive anesthesia, which will put him or her in a deep sleep so that they do not feel any pain. The surgeon will make a small cut in the abdomen and remove the appendix. The surgery will leave a small scar.
After a person has an appendectomy, he or she will stay in the hospital for a few days. A child will normally need about one to three weeks to recover completely after the surgery before returning to school.