Appendicitis In Children

Appendicitis In Children
Nelton Ramos

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Nelton Ramos.

Written by Gladys González

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Appendicitis in children between 0-4 years of age is a frequent problem. We’ll provide information about it below.

Appendicitis is the inflammation of a little organ called the appendix, a skinny tube that is approximately 9 centimeters long that protrudes from the large intestine. Until now, science hasn’t figured out the organ’s exact function but apparently it works in defense against intestinal infections.

Moms and dads should know appendicitis because it can affect children from the moment they are born. For this reason we ask ourselves: what is the cause of this inflammation of the appendix?

The obstruction of this canal causes accumulation of fecal matter (feces) that damages the organ’s wall, later causing inflammation and infection.

Appendicitis can occur in newborn babies

Once this occurs, the swelling keeps growing and the pain usually focuses in the lower right part of the abdomen. There the pain concentrates in an area known as the McBurney point. This is a point that doctors use as a reference in making a diagnosis.

In some cases children can begin to feel a bit better after a bout of sharp pain. This is not a good sign as it could signal the beginning of peritonitis, which is the inflammation of a membrane called the peritoneum that  lines the most part of abdominal organs. Peritonitis is caused by the perforation of the appendix.

Symptoms of appendicitis in children

Child with appendicitis

Generally doctors don’t immediately diagnose appendicitis, but do so after conducting a series of studies. With our littles ones, it is important we follow this protocol, because appendicitis can be confused with other intestinal affectations which are of less serious (gastroenteritis for example), or a cold, etc.

Here are the main symptoms of appendicitis in children to watch out for:

  • The initial symptom is usually light pain in the upper part of the abdomen or around the belly button. This is followed by fever, lack of appetite, diarrhea, constipation and chills
  • As the hours pass, the pain begins to intensify and migrates towards the lower part of the abdomen
  • Of course when a child is experiencing these symptoms, they won’t like to do activities they usually enjoy like running, playing or eating. If you notice that your child is still in a playful mood, you can feel a bit more relaxed.

If you observe these signs mentioned above, you should tell your pediatrician about them and follow their indications. In the case your child is in extreme pain you should head to the closest hospital immediately.

Risk factors

Acute appendicitis is the leading cause of intra abdominal surgery in children over 2 years old. Even though it can be seen at any age, children younger than 2 have a risk of about 5% and the maximum incidence is of boys between 10 and 12 years old.

In this context, it’s worth asking: Which factors influence the appearance of appendicitis in children? These are the risk factors:

  • Genetics: the risk increases if mom or dad have had this problem in the past
  • Infections: gastroenteritis, viral infections etc.
  • Indigestion: a diet with low consumption of fiber is risky for your body.
  • Circumstantial: abdominal trauma

Treatment of appendicitis

Boy lying on couch with appendicitis

Unfortunately, after a clear diagnosis of apendicitis, the only solution is taking out the appendix (appendectomy) through a surgical procedure. The good news is that sciences has advanced a lot in the past few years and it is now a very simple operation. Children also recover a lot faster than adults

Fever, vomiting, lack of appetite and abdominal pain are the most common symptoms of appendicitis in children

There is a very small possibility that the appendix might appear normal during the surgery. But in this case the doctor will surely remove it and continue looking for other causes of abdominal pain.

Whatever the situation, it is very important that you have faith that your little one is strong and will overcome the situation.

The majority of children recover quickly after appendicitis. So there is no need to worry. Watch over your little angle’s health and always have at hand the phone number of your trusted doctor in case of emergencies.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.