When people talk about the appendix, most people can think of someone they know who had their appendix out – but there are also a lot of people who don’t know why the appendix is even in the body, let alone what its purpose is. Today’s researchers believe that this small organ does have some important functions in our body – that the appendix actually protects the body from infection. Biologists also support theories that the appendix used to aid in the digestion of tough herbs and woody fibers that ancient humans consumed – that they were actually first herbivorous. As these humans started eating more digestible type foods, the appendix gradually lost its function. There are some scientists who believe that the appendix will eventually just not develop anymore and disappear from the human body. But while it is still around, researchers think that the appendix has a role to play in the immune system of our bodies; it stores good microbes that it produces for our human gut, aiding us in the digestion of food.
Table of Contents
- How is Appendicitis Caused?
- Who Gets Appendicitis and What Are the Symptoms?
- What is Acute Appendicitis and What is Chronic Appendicitis?
- How Does a Doctor then Diagnose Appendicitis?
- Your Child Really Does Have Appendicitis and Will Have an Appendectomy
- How Will a Doctor Treat Appendicitis?
- What Happens When My Child Gets Home from the Hospital?
- OK, to the Appendix is Out – How Must I Take Care of My Child after the OP?
How is Appendicitis Caused?
It is a little organ, shaped like a little finger, sitting just above where the large intestines are situated. Inflammation of the appendix occurs when bacteria gets in that area, either by a large nymph node or even a hard stool that compresses the opening. Once the appendix becomes infected, it needs to be removed so that it does not burst and spread all that infection into the stomach.
If you have a family history of appendicitis, then you are more likely to get it – apparently, males get it more than females. However, at this moment in our history, it appears as if the amount of appendix operations is declining; probably due to the fact that more people are watching what they eat; they are consuming more fiber.
When appendicitis occurs, it is the appendix in your body, an extension of the colon, which becomes swollen, inflamed and infected. Sometimes there is a blockage in the appendix that causes an infection called a bacterial overgrowth. But it certainly is a medical problem serious enough to require prompt attention, and usually, that is to have the appendix removed.
Who Gets Appendicitis and What Are the Symptoms?
Appendicitis is not a medical problem affecting just one group of people. Anyone can suddenly develop appendicitis. However, Everyday Health reports that it can and does seem to affect most people who are between the ages of 10-19.
When it’s an adult with appendicitis, we might often just brush the symptoms off, dismissing it as a stomach ache, and just carry on with our daily activities. Sometimes, if the pain gets really bad, an adult might stay away from work and be near the bathroom should they need to use it quickly. Sometimes if that pain goes beyond what we are used to, we might do a quick search online, searching for advice or symptoms – or we will phone and book an appointment to see the doctor.
But it’s a completely different ballgame when it comes to symptoms of appendicitis in kids. Children do get tummy aches quite often, more than adults do generally, and sometimes parents just boohoo the idea away – maybe Johnny just ate too much this time, maybe he ate something he shouldn’t have – sometimes parents think their children are just being silly, and might not take their stomachache too seriously. But appendix pain in the tummy – that’s something parents should definitely not ignore. It is considered a medical condition serious enough to need immediate, if not urgent attention.
Although many children do often experience appendicitis-like symptoms, a doctor will often battle to diagnose appendicitis in children than he would for adults. One magazine in the USA, called Parents Magazine notes that “approximately 80,000 children in the United States suffer from appendicitis every year.” It goes on to state that even though it is mostly seen in children over 10-years of age, a lot of children, more than 80%, in fact, are under 3, and whose appendix has already ruptured before the child even reaches the operating theatre. Unfortunately, this is because appendicitis is very hard to diagnose, and particularly more so when little ones are unable to speak properly or properly describe the symptoms they have. Everyday Health Magazine also notes that research shows that children react differently to appendicitis than what adults do.
Nevertheless, a parent needs to look out for these important symptoms:
- Stomachache, even though it is a common symptom, it can actually come from other things such as:
- Strep throat
- Swallowing a lot of air
- Food allergies
However, if your child’s stomach were to get worse and even last for more than just one day, then it could be something more serious, something which needs to be investigated. Even so, if the stomach pain lasted more than a day with your child, there are still even other things besides appendicitis that could be causing this. These could be:
- A stomach ulcer
- Some inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Tumors, be they cancerous or benign
- UTI –or urinary tract infection
- A hernia
See how hard it is to diagnose appendicitis? Appendicitis in a 4-year old is probably when the child says he or she has pain in the area of the bellybutton, and that pain starts to spread down to the lower side of their abdomen. Usually, an abdominal infection would have occurred, which would spread to the appendix. If your child writhes in pain on movement, or when taking deep breaths, or coughing and sneezing, you probably would have guessed right that he or she has appendicitis. It is imperative that you heed the warning signs of appendicitis in children and get your child to a doctor immediately.
What is Acute Appendicitis and What is Chronic Appendicitis?
People often ask the question, “Can appendix pain come and go?” or “Does appendicitis pain go away?” There are actually two types of appendicitis – one is chronic and the other is acute. Many times, in the case of chronic appendicitis, somebody might have the symptoms of appendicitis, but they just carry on with their normal life, until it turns into acute appendicitis. With chronic appendicitis, symptoms disappear and then reappear over a period of time. Sometimes appendicitis symptoms in children with no fever are there and the parents might not even take their child to a doctor when there appears to be no fever. Sometimes with chronic appendicitis, it can actually go undiagnosed for days, weeks, months and even years.
When appendicitis is acute, the symptoms become more severe, and they can just suddenly appear within a matter of 24-48 hours. When it does appear in its acute form, it needs on-the-spot attention.
In a baby, it is hard to diagnose appendix problems and parents might believe the baby or toddler is suffering from a stomach ache. But as mentioned above, a baby’s appendix can also get clogged with bacteria which can develop into appendicitis. You will immediately let your doctor know if your baby can’t speak and you notice these symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Your baby’s abdomen will be sensitive to your touch.
How Does a Doctor then Diagnose Appendicitis?
When there are signs of appendicitis in a toddler or older child, the doctor will enquire about the medical history of the child. He might ask something like “Is the appendicitis pain constant?” Then he will do the proper medical examination. This will include:
- An abdominal ultrasound. This technique makes use of high-frequency sound waves from a computer to show images of tissues, organs and blood vessels. The ultrasound can show the doctor views of the internal organs and how they are functioning and also assess blood flow through the blood vessels.
- Computer tomography scan or CAT scan of the stomach. This will entail x-rays and the latest computer technology. Images of different parts of the body combined with x-rays will show the doctor bones, fat, muscles and organs of the child.
- Blood tests will be carried out which would reveal the visibility of the infection and which can reveal if there are other problems with other parts of the body.
- A urinalysis test will reveal kidney or bladder infections to the doctor and which the doctor will recognize as symptoms of appendicitis.
Your Child Really Does Have Appendicitis and Will Have an Appendectomy
Usually, an appendectomy takes places. This is the removal of the appendix surgically. It is necessary to do this, because if the appendicitis is not caught in the early stages, it can rupture, causing infection of the membrane lining of the abdominal cavity. The infection can be fatal. Doctors have always believed that it is very important to get rid of the infection and they will do this by administering antibiotics before they actually carry out the appendectomy. Then they wait until the infection has subsided before they carry out the appendectomy. This can sometimes be 6-8 weeks after the child has been diagnosed with appendicitis. Research shows that children are quick at recovering and often do not suffer from the post-surgical complications like adults do when it comes to infection of the appendectomy wound, and if the ruptured appendix was removed 24 hours after rupturing.
How Will a Doctor Treat Appendicitis?
The doctor will know what to give your child, based on the seriousness of the problem. He will want to know how old your child is and what their general health history looks like. He will give his opinion on the best care and diagnosis for your child and discuss with the parents how they would like their child to be treated.
If the removal of the appendix is suggested to alleviate the infection and to prevent it becoming life-threatening, this will be suggested to the parents. The appendix can be removed in a couple of ways. These are:
Under anesthetic: A cut will be made in the right hand lower side of your child’s abdomen where the appendix is found and then removed. If the appendix ruptured, maybe a small drainage tube would be placed there so that pus and other fluids can be drained away. Later on, the tube will be removed when the surgeon is satisfied that the infection has abated.
The Laparoscopic method: The doctor makes a few small incisions and then a camera will be placed inside the abdomen for observation. Under anesthetic, the surgeon will use instruments to remove the appendix. But this procedure is not usually carried out when the appendix has ruptured.
A child after surgery cannot eat or drink for a while to enable the intestine to start healing. Fluids usually are administered right into the bloodstream via a drip until the child starts drinking by himself again. Antibiotics and other medications might also be administered this way to help the child with the healing process. A child will need plenty of liquids and then will only start with solid foods a little bit later on.
A child whose appendix was ruptured will probably stay in the hospital longer than the child whose appendix was removed before it ruptured. Here is the video about appendicitis.
What Happens When My Child Gets Home from the Hospital?
The doctor will recommend that your child lays lows for a while, not getting too carried away with rough and tumble activities for quite a few weeks after the operation. Maybe the drain will still be in place when your child returns home from the hospital. It is recommended that your child does no swimming or bathing in a bath until that drain has been removed. The medications will continue once your child gets home from the hospital and some of these medications might make your child constipated. You need to ask the doctor about side effects that any of the medications might produce. Moving around after surgery will help with constipation as well and also drinking of plenty fluids. Eating bread, cereals, fruit, and vegetable will also help with constipation.
OK, to the Appendix is Out – How Must I Take Care of My Child after the OP?
When surgery has been completed, your child might feel a bit weak for some days when he or she gets home. Their stomach still might be a bit swollen and even sore, and the child might still even feel a bit sick. They might still have constipation, gas or diarrhea and even a headache. Some of these symptoms disappear after a couple of days, and most kids will be back to their old selves about a week after the surgery.
Without an appendix, your child will function just as normal as ever, but you might be wondering if you need to change your child’s diet after the appendix has been removed. Here are a couple of tips to help you in the process:
- Gradually allow your child to start becoming more active, but also that he or she gets plenty of sleep at night time. No riding on bikes or wildly running around yet, not even gym until the doctor says so. Walking and playing with other children quietly is more the order of the day. The doctor will be the one to say when your child can lift things again so that that area is not strained.
- Your child can take a shower if the doctor says it is OK. The incision should be patted dry after the shower. It is advised that you don’t let your child bath for the first couple of weeks, especially if there is a drainage pipe coming from the incision. The doctor will have instructed you how to bath the child and keep the incision healthy and clean.
- Your child will probably be up to going back to schooland resuming all his or her activities from about a week or two after getting home from the hospital.
- Diet: A child can eat a normal diet, but if the stomach is not fully recovered and is upset, bland and low-fat type foods like yogurt, boiled up chicken, plain rice etc. should be given. Plenty of fluids need to be drunk so that the child does not become dehydrated.
- What about medicines? Your child’s doctor will also inform you what medicines your child will have brought home with him from the hospital and which ones he needs to continue taking; maybe even new ones. If your child’s appendix was ruptured, antibiotics are probably one of the important medicines. Follow the instructions implicitly and regularly, because some medicines must be taken after meals, etc.
- Incision care: You would have had instructions on how to take care of the incision wound, following the doctor’s instructions about keeping the area clean, and dry. Follow the progress of the incision wound as it heals.
- Follow up with checkups is extremely important, all for your child’s safety and health. Attend all appointments and keep y our doctor’s phone number at the top of your list in case your child should experience problems.
No, you can’t prevent appendicitis from coming your way or your child’s. But take care, because it is less common in people who eat high fiber diets, with fruit and vegetables. It is not guaranteed that you will never get appendicitis but listen to some wise words from Bethenny Frankel who says that “Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments”