Children's Appendicitis: Questions We Parents Fret About (but May be too Afraid to Ask)

Children's Appendicitis: Questions We Parents Fret About (but May be too Afraid to Ask)
Topics: 

Breaking news: appendectomies are actually a very popular topic of conversation in the right circles. Of all the blogs on kids health I have ever posted, or stories I have ever recounted to fellow parents, this one was absolutely one of the most popular, and word traveled fast... After my son’s appendectomy, everyone from teachers at my son’s school to heads of companies (and not coincidentally, dads and moms) approached us to ask, “What exactly were the symptoms again? Will I be able to tell in time if my child has appendicitis? Would my child die if their appendix ruptured?”

I thought I would turn proverbial lemons into lemonade with our recent ER visit and write a small series of blogs on appendicitis, since our recent firsthand experience seems to have struck a chord with many parents. This time, the second blog, I wanted to take a few minutes to calm fears and dispel myths...

But first, a caveat: While I hope I can allay many mama and papas’ fears with this blog, I want to emphasize that appendicitis is a condition best treated in the ER as soon as suspicions strike and not a condition for which I suggest home remedies... wait until the appendectomy is over, and the crisis time has passed, then there’s plenty you can do. We’ll talk about that in an upcoming post. Now on to the juice:

The first thing I can say to make parents feel more comfortable with their ability to assess possible appendicitis is that it was really very obvious that my son was not having a run-of-the-mill stomachache. A mellow child by nature, he was screaming in pain. And while the symptoms started out diffuse and non-specific, i.e.“I’m not feeling well,” they progressed into localized symptoms over the span of less than two days, before the appendix ruptured. This is a common presentation for appendicitis. Some children will have milder stomach pain that comes and goes, and some will have severe and constant pain. The common thread is that eventually, the pain gets worse, and more localized. (If there’s any doubt, go to the ER, you are absolutely better safe than sorry). The bottom line is, appendicitis is painful and scary for your child. If you are a parent or caregiver who is around a child with appendicitis, I doubt you’d miss out on the fact that something is wrong.

My son didn’t have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever, but many children do. How can you tell the difference then between appendicitis and a run-of-the-mill stomach flu? Bottom line, you can’t always tell, but there’s a very good chance that appendicitis should not be ruled out if it is accompanied by belly pain that eventually localizes under the belly button, and/or on the right side of your child’s belly, at or below the level of the belly button. appendix diagram The appendix itself is generally located in the region of “McBurney’s point”: draw a line between the belly button and your child’s hip at the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS) and you’ll find it 1/3 of the way from the hip toward the belly button. Don’t know what the ASIS is? You’re not alone. Its the first pronounced protuberance of the pelvic bone you should feel at the hip if you’re feeling your way out from the belly button. And don’t worry if you miss it. You’ll hit the general area regardless if you are feeling around your child’s belly on his or her right side.

Another sign of possible appendicitis is “rebound pain.” Rebound pain refers to pain that gets worse when you release the pressure -- so if you are firmly but gently feeling around on your child’s belly to locate areas of pain, the pain might actually get worse directly after you remove your hand’s pressure from the area.

And no, an appendix rupture is not fatal in and of itself, not unless left untreated -- it becomes life-threatening if and when an abdominal infection occurs without antibiotics and/or other medical intervention. A ruptured appendix does, however, make the recovery more complicated -- a 1-2 day stay in the hospital could turn into a 1-2 week stay and a load of antibiotics to prevent and treat any secondary infections that arise from it. This is why it is in everyone’s best interest to diagnose and treat appendicitis before it ruptures. If your child does have a ruptured appendix, often times the belly pain initially feels better. This ‘recovery’ only lasts for a couple hours, sometimes up to a day or so, but then your child would feel worse again -- this time accompanied most often by fever, pale complexion, and other signs and symptoms that your child is very ill. Get them in immediately to the ER if there is any doubt at all.

In most cases, appendicitis has a very happy ending...the main tears shed by my son were over leaving the hospital when the ordeal was over. No more menu of exciting foods to be delivered to him in his bed, no more free dvd and book library, or roaming toy cart, no more lifted restrictions on tv time, no more captive mommy and daddy, sitting next to him with nothing to do but memorize every fact about Beyblades and Bakugan he cares to share as it strikes his fancy. But perhaps most devastating now that he’s home is that he’s had to return to his sad little bed that does not recline or raise him to seated position at the touch of a button. Never fear, he’s put one of these on next year’s Christmas list...

 

0 comment(s)

You might also like...

It’s 6pm, after 33 hours of traveling home from Vietnam (yes, I counted, for good measure), and I step into the Austin Airport. I’ve...

Leave a Comment

Popular Posts

Dear readers, I’m pregnant again. I wish I were saying this to elicit congratulations and by way of launching a new column about pregnancy -- and I am, at least, doing the latter, but the...

Summer is nearly upon us – and with it, a lot of changes, excitement, and challenges for our little (and too rapidly, I fear, not-so-little) ones. Some of the changes in temperature,...

We’ve all been listening to and reading the news about Swine Flu (especially if, like me, you live in Austin, just an hour from San Antonio, and bordering Mexico.) And , if you’re also...

When a dear friend calls and says that her angelic little baby boy, now four months old has turned into a slightly less angelic version of himself, a little drooling fussy version who...

Bedwetting rarely represents a problem requiring medical intervention; it is, however, one of the major reasons that parents will explore natural remedies and complementary medicines for their...