Appendicitis is an infection (or inflammation) of the appendix organ. It can be common in kids and teens between the ages of 5 and 20 years old but is rare in babies and children younger than the age of 5. The appendix is attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Symptoms include extreme abdominal pain, and treatment typically involves surgery. Keep reading to learn more about appendicitis in kids.
There are a few different potential causes of appendicitis in kids, and the origin of your child’s infection may not always be known. There does appear to be a genetic component to appendicitis risk, and having a family history of appendicitis may increase your child’s risk of developing this condition.
The most common cause of appendicitis is an obstruction or blockage at the opening of your child’s appendix. It can also be caused by an abdominal or digestive tract infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or parasites in your child’s appendix.
No matter the cause, appendicitis is a serious condition that needs to be treated right away. Parents should keep an eye out for the following symptoms that may indicate an appendicitis infection.
The most common symptom of an appendicitis infection is pain in the abdomen, especially when originating from the belly button area and later moving to the lower right side. Pain that is worsening, or is felt more when the child is moving, talking, taking deep breaths, coughing, or sneezing is often a strong indicator of an appendix infection.
Other symptoms of appendicitis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Diarrhea (especially with mucus)
- Swollen belly
- High fever (could indicate a ruptured appendix)
A thorough physical exam that includes questions about your child’s symptoms and medical history is the basis of any appendicitis diagnosis. Blood and urine samples may be taken to check for the presence of an active infection. To confirm an appendicitis diagnosis, imaging of the abdominal area may also be taken, such as an X-ray or CT scan.
In mild cases, a course of antibiotics may be enough to treat your child’s appendicitis. However, if you suspect that your child might have appendicitis, seeking medical attention from a qualified health professional in a timely manner is crucial.
This is because if appendicitis is not treated, the appendix can rupture, which has serious and even life-threatening implications. Bacteria from a ruptured appendix can get into your child’s bloodstream, causing a potentially fatal infection known as sepsis.
Treatment of appendicitis often requires the removal of your child’s appendix via surgery. This surgery is called an appendectomy and may be performed by laparoscopic surgery or laparotomy (open) surgery. Recovery can take several days and may result in a hospital stay to ensure there are no post-surgery complications. However, you should expect your child to fully recover with no lasting effects from their appendicitis surgery.
An appendectomy is the most common type of emergency surgery in children.
If you suspect that your child may be experiencing appendicitis, give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified pediatricians or visit your local hospital.