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Appendicitis In Children

Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix – a small organ that is attached to the large intestine. An inflamed appendix can cause severe pain which can easily be mistaken as stomach flu or other tummy problems. Use this guide to help you educate yourself and better understand appendicitis in children.

What causes appendicitis?

Appendicitis occurs when there is obstruction in the appendix caused by body wastes, infection that lead to inflammation and trauma. Once the appendix is infected, the blockage has to be taken out immediately to prevent it from rupturing and spreading the infection into the stomach.

What are the signs and symptoms?

A toddler with appendicitis may experience one or two of the following symptoms:

  • Swollen tummy
  • Abdominal pain near the belly button or lower right side of the stomach (pain increases as the condition aggravates)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea (in small amounts)
  • Constipation
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Painful and recurrent urination

Who are prone to appendicitis?

Any child can have an infected appendix. But, according to child health experts, children with a family history of appendicitis, cystic fibrosis (a disease in the secretory glands) and a genetic disorder that causes digestive and respiratory complications are more likely to get appendicitis.

How is appendicitis diagnosed?

The symptoms of appendicitis are very common to a lot of conditions (e.g. UTI, pneumonia or kidney stones) making it difficult to diagnose. Often times, this condition is mistaken for a bad stomach ache. If you believe your toddler is suffering from appendicitis, the best way to confirm this is to consult with your toddler’s pediatrician. The doctor will perform an examination of the abdomen (a CAT scan, ultrasound or an abdomen and chest X-ray) to examine your toddler’s stomach. A blood or urine test may also be necessary in order to check if there is an infection.

How can appendicitis be treated?

Once it has been confirmed your toddler has appendicitis, there are two options the doctor can give – antibiotics and surgery. The doctor may first treat the appendicitis with antibiotics. Your baby will receive intravenous (IV) antibiotics in the hospital to eradicate the bacteria and reduce swelling. An appendectomy is performed by making an opening in the tummy with a laparoscope to create a smaller incision where the appendix can be taken out.

Your toddler will have to stay at the hospital for 2 to 3 days. However, if the inflammed appendix has burst, hospital stay might be longer for surgery and to let the antibiotics kill any bacteria that have spread throughout the body.

Although appendicitis affects people between the ages 10 to 30, it is still possible for toddlers to catch the disease. Hence, it is very important that you keep a watchful eye on your child especially if he develops the symptoms. Immediate medical attention can help prevent the condition from getting worse and reduce the risk of additional side effects.

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