Appendicitis in children is a common disease, produced by inflammation of the appendix, that small tubular structure attached to the colon. Inflammation of the appendix is one of the most frequent causes of emergency abdominal surgery in children and adolescents.
It can occur at all ages, although in rare cases it affects children under 2 years of age. The most common symptoms vary according to the age of the patient, but any doctor can make a correct diagnosis and make the decision to perform surgery or not .
Why does appendicitis occur?
The appendix can be blocked due to several reasons:
- Presence of a hard, dry mass of fecal matter, which is called fecalitis.
- Inflammation of the lymph nodes of the intestine.
- Presence of parasites.
When the appendix becomes blocked, it becomes inflamed and the first symptom appears: pain. At that moment, the bacteria in the stool reproduce in it in an accelerated way. The appendix becomes infected and if not removed in time it can explode, seriously affecting the health, including life, of the baby.
Main symptoms of appendicitis in children
Because the appendix varies in size and location from person to person, appendicitis in children sometimes has different and varying symptoms. Also, because they are very common symptoms, they can be associated with other ailments, from simple indigestion to something more complex.
Not all of these symptoms work together. For this reason, as soon as a combination of these ailments appears, you should go to the doctor.
Between 24 and 72 hours after the onset of symptoms, the appendix can burst, so this problem must be taken very seriously.
Most common symptoms
1. Abdominal pain
It is the most common symptom. The pain is felt around the navel and then migrates to the lower right side of the belly.
It gets worse when applying light pressure, with deep breathing or moving. There may also be stiffness in the abdominal muscles or pain when bowing or urinating.
2. Vomiting and loss of appetite
Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite usually appear together with appendicitis.
Since they are symptoms common to other diseases, the presence of localized pain indicates a possible inflammation of the appendix.
When there is inflammation or infection, the body defends itself by producing more white blood cells.
In case of appendicitis, carrying out a laboratory test, the increase in the number of leukocytes in the blood will be highlighted.
Less frequent symptoms
Fever may occur in the first few hours of appendicitis, although it is not common. A high fever can appear when the inflammation has advanced and the appendix has been punctured, whereby the fecal material passes into the abdomen.
5. Diarrhea or constipation
They are not frequent symptoms, but they can appear. Diarrhea is not the usual abundant and liquid evacuation: it is in small quantities and has mucus.
Constipation is not typical, but it can be part of the clinical picture.
6. Abdominal distension
A swollen or distended abdomen occurs mostly in the few cases where appendicitis affects a newborn or very young child.
How do symptoms change according to age?
For children between 5 and 12 years and adolescents, the symptoms are generally the same as in adults: abdominal pain, vomiting and loss of appetite.
- Appendicitis in children under one year of age is very rare. The main symptom is abdominal distension, accompanied by vomiting and loss of appetite. It is difficult to determine if there is pain, because the child cannot indicate it. It is very rare because the appendix tube is very small at this age, so obstruction and inflammation are unlikely to occur.
- In children aged 1 to 5, appendicitis is not common. When it occurs, the main symptoms are pain, fever, and vomiting. When the abdomen is pressed, the baby complains of intense pain during decompression.
- In children between the ages of 5 and 12, the typical migration of pain from the center of the abdomen to the lower right may not occur. Some children have a fever and a few have diarrhea.
The solution: go to the doctor
Appendicitis can only be treated by surgically removing the appendix (appendectomy), which shouldn’t have major complications. There are no natural remedies to treat or deflate the appendix.
If the infected appendix is not removed, it can explode and spread the bacteria. The infection caused by the rupture of the appendix is very serious, it can form an abscess (an infection with pus) or spread to the abdomen (peritonitis).
It is rare that a doctor cannot make an accurate diagnosis of appendicitis in children, unless there is abnormal pain or when the child is unable to describe the symptoms well.
Appendectomy is a regular procedure and after two to three days of hospitalization, the baby will go home.