Causes of appendicitis

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix – that is, the appendix gets red, swollen and irritated.

We don’t know what causes appendicitis. One theory is that if food or poo gets stuck in the appendix, it can cause a blockage, which can then get infected with bacteria.

We also don’t really know why we have an appendix or what it’s supposed to do in our bodies. It might just be a body part left over from human evolution.

Appendicitis symptoms

Appendicitis is more common in older children and teenagers.

The main symptom is pain in the tummy. This pain usually starts in the middle of your child’s belly near his belly button. It might feel like a dull cramp. Over the next few hours, the pain becomes sharper. Sometimes the pain can shift from being all over the tummy to the lower right side of the belly, over the appendix.

Your child might be more uncomfortable when she’s trying to sit upright or walk straight. The pain will often get worse when she moves. Your child might also have fevervomiting, loose poo and no appetite.

Appendicitis can be more difficult to diagnose in young children than in teenagers or adults because the symptoms aren’t as clear. You might not even know that your young child has tummy pain.

When to see your doctor about appendicitis

There’s always a risk of the inflamed appendix bursting and releasing pus into the abdomen. This isn’t very common, but it can be life-threatening.

If your child is extremely unwell and even a small amount of movement causes pain, take her directly to a hospital.

Tests for appendicitis

Your doctor might ask your child to do a urine test. This will rule out a urinary tract infection, which can look a lot like appendicitis. Your child might also need a blood test to see whether there’s evidence of inflammation somewhere in his body.

If your doctor suspects acute appendicitis, the doctor will tell you to take your child to a hospital emergency department immediately, before requesting any tests.

Treatment for appendicitis

Surgery to remove the inflamed appendix is the only treatment for appendicitis.

As noted above, the appendix doesn’t seem to have a function in food digestion or absorption. If it’s taken out, your child won’t have any problems because it’s gone.