An acute inflammation of the appendix ( appendicitis ) can
happen at any age. But the teenage years are among the
The appendix is part of the intestine - a blind-ending
tube, in the right, lower part of the abdomen. When this
becomes inflamed, it does so acutely. There is no such
thing as a 'grumbling' appendix- it is either inflamed or it is
not. And when it is acutely inflamed, urgent surgical
treatment is vital.
Signs and symptoms of appendicitis
There will he a sudden onset of abdominal pain, usually
starting in the centre, and later moving towards the right,
lower part of the abdomen. This pattern is not invariable in
children, however. Often, the pain will not be localized
into the right lower part of the abdomen, remaining central
instead, but the pain will he severe and continuous.
Vomiting will also occur and, in children, usually diarrhoea is also present. There may also he a fever, and the
child will feel very unwell.
Appendicitis is difficult to diagnose accurately - especially if only some of the classical features are present. So
do not attempt diagnosis yourself. If in any doubt about the
cause of your child's abdominal pain, contact your doctor
at once. Far better an unnecessary consultation than a
seriously ill child with a burst appendix. ( This can occur if
treatment is not given within twenty-four hours. Peritonitis
- inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity - will
then occur, and this is a life-threatening condition. )
Treatment for appendicitis
This involves surgical removal of the appendix, under a
general anaesthetic. A stay of a few days in hospital is
necessary following this operation and the stitches will be
removed seven to ten days after the operation. Recovery,
particularly in this young age group, is swift and complete.
Appendicitis is a condition of which everyone has heard
and mothers have it at the back of their minds when their
child complains of 'tummy-ache'. If you are in any doubt
about the cause of your child's abdominal pain, never hesitate to contact your doctor. Circumstances under
which you should contact your doctor if you child has
'tummy-ache' are as follows:
1 If the pain has been present continuously for more than
2 If there is associated diarrhoea and vomiting.
3 If your child says that the pain is 'different' from a usual