Appendicitis in children – symptoms – causes – what to do.

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Appendicitis is the result of a swollen or inflamed appendix. The appendix is a small finger-like tube that grows out of the part of the bowel called the colon.

Causes of appendicitis

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix – that is, the appendix gets red, swollen and irritated.

We don’t know what causes appendicitis. One theory is that if food or poop gets stuck in the appendix, it can cause a blockage, which can then get infected with bacteria.

We also don’t really know why we have an appendix or what it’s supposed to do in our bodies. It is most probably something left over from millions of years of evolution. It has no known use!

Appendicitis symptoms

Appendicitis is more common in older children and teenagers.

The main symptom is pain in the tummy. This pain usually starts in the middle of your child’s belly near the belly button. It might feel like a dull cramp. Over the next few hours, the pain becomes sharper. Sometimes the pain can shift from being all over the tummy to the lower right side of the belly, over the appendix.

Your child might be more uncomfortable when they’re trying to sit upright or walk straight. The pain will often get worse when they move. Your child might also have fever, vomiting, loose stools and no appetite.

Appendicitis can be more difficult to diagnose in young children than in teenagers or adults because the symptoms aren’t as clear. You might not even know that your young child has tummy pain.

When to see your doctor about appendicitis

There’s always a risk of the inflamed appendix bursting and releasing pus into the abdomen. This isn’t very common, but it can be life-threatening.

If your child is obviously unwell and in great pain – take them straight to hospital.

Tests for appendicitis

Your doctor might ask your child to do a urine test. This will rule out a urinary tract infection, which can look a lot like appendicitis. Your child might also need a blood test to see whether there’s evidence of inflammation somewhere in their body.

If your doctor suspects acute appendicitis, the doctor will tell you to take your child to a hospital emergency department immediately, before requesting any tests.

Treatment for appendicitis

Surgery to remove the inflamed appendix is the only treatment for appendicitis.

As noted above, the appendix doesn’t seem to have a function in food digestion or absorption. If it’s taken out, your child won’t have any problems because it’s gone.