By: Melissa Hendrickson, BSN, RN, Director of Health Services, Penfield Children’s Center
Stomach aches are not uncommon in children. In fact, anything from the stomach flu to food that does not agree with your child’s stomach can cause him to feel pain. Most of the time, mild stomach aches do not require medical attention and will resolve on their own. However, if your child complains of stomach pain in addition to symptoms such as fever, vomiting, loss of appetite and pain around the belly button, it’s best to check with his pediatrician to rule out a more serious condition, such as appendicitis.
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is when the appendix, a small organ attached to the large intestine, becomes inflamed because of a blockage. When this organ is blocked, bacteria can grow and an infection can occur, requiring immediate medical attention. Parasites, a hard stool and inflamed lymph nodes can cause blockages in the appendix and if the appendix is not removed, it can rupture and spread bacteria to other parts of the child’s abdomen.
Who can get appendicitis?
Anyone can get appendicitis, but it is rare in infants. This condition is most common in children and young adults, between the ages of 10-20 years old.
Is appendicitis contagious?
Nope! Someone with appendicitis cannot spread it to anyone else.
How can I tell if my child has a normal stomach ache or if it’s a sign of something more serious?
If your child has a stomach ache and also presents with a fever, pain in the lower part of the abdomen or around the belly button and complains that the pain ebbs and flows, but then becomes sharp, it’s best to call a doctor to rule out complications such as appendicitis.
How common is appendicitis?
About 80,000 children per year are affected by appendicitis and 30% of these children experience an appendix that ruptures. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “appendicitis is the most common cause for emergency abdominal surgery in childhood.”
I’m afraid my child might have appendicitis. What should I do?
Since appendicitis is very serious and requires immediate attention, it’s important to call your child’s physician or take him to the doctor, right away. Also, refrain from giving him anything to eat or drink, unless instructed by medical staff. If your child’s pediatrician suspects appendicitis, he/she will order urine and blood tests, and do an examination on your child’s abdomen, looking for tenderness. The doctor might also order additional tests such as an x-ray, ultrasound or CT scan. If your child does have appendicitis, he will require surgery to remove the appendix. This surgery is called an appendectomy.
How long will my child stay in the hospital following an appendectomy?
Most often, children remain in the hospital for 12-24 hours after surgery and will be released when they can eat a traditional diet, have no fever and have made a bowel movement.
While appendicitis and any other condition in children is scary, it’s important to remember that seeking treatment early can ensure your child receives the care he needs before a more serious complication occurs. If your child does require surgery, the most minimally invasive procedures are used to ensure incisions are as small as possible, speeding up recovery time.
If your child has had appendicitis, what are some warning signs that occurred?