Appendicitis in Children

July 25, 2021
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Children and stomach aches often go hand in hand. Whether they’ve eaten too many sweets or are feeling under the weather, it’s likely that their initial complaints of stomach pain don’t raise much of a flag. But, if their stomach pain spreads, becomes severe, or is paired with other symptoms, it’s crucial that you seek medical treatment immediately. That’s because it could be a sign that their appendix is about to burst. This rupture can be life-threatening to your child and requires emergency surgery immediately.

What is appendicitis?

The appendix is a tiny, worm-shaped structure that’s attached to your large intestine. If it swells and becomes infected, this is known as appendicitis. Appendicitis can cause the appendix to rupture, which can be life-threatening. The condition typically affects children between 11 and 20 years of age, but it can impact babies in rare cases.

Causes of Appendicitis

Appendicitis is caused when the appendix gets blocked and bacteria builds up, causing an infection. A serious infection — called peritonitis — can occur in the belly when the appendix bursts. If left untreated, it can be fatal. The appendix can be blocked by various things, including:

  • Hard, rock-like stool (poop)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the intestines
  • Parasites and other infections

Symptoms of Appendicitis

Signs of appendicitis typically start with a mild fever and pain around the belly button. It can often be mistaken for a stomach ache at first, but the pain usually worsens and moves to the lower right side of the belly. In addition to a low-grade fever and pain that starts at the belly button, common signs of appendicitis include:

  • Swollen abdomen
  • Abdomen pain that persists for more than four hours
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Prevention & Diagnosis

While appendicitis can’t be prevented, it can be easily treated when diagnosed quickly. But, the condition shares several symptoms with other common illnesses — including pneumonia, kidney stones, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). As such, your pediatrician will need to conduct a physical exam that includes checking the stomach for signs of pain or tenderness. The doctor may also request several tests to get an accurate diagnosis, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasounds
  • CT scans

Once diagnosed, the only effective treatment option is surgery to remove the appendix. This prevents the appendix from bursting and putting your child at risk. If the appendix ruptures, the appendix will still be removed, but your child will need to stay in the hospital longer for monitoring and may require antibiotics to lower the risk of severe infection.

How to Care for a Child With Appendicitis

After surgery, your child will require a one- to two-week recovery period. During this time, there are a few things you can do to ensure they have a quick and healthy recovery. Caring for your child with appendicitis may include:

  • Scheduling, organizing, and attending all appointments
  • Following the doctor’s care instructions carefully
  • Helping manage your child’s pain with prescribed medications
  • Implementing an appropriate diet for their recovery
  • Allowing them to rest
  • Monitoring their progress and calling the doctor if problems arise

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.