Appendicitis in children

The most common ailment requiring emergency abdominal operation in childhood, appendicitis is caused by the inflammation of the appendix.

The appendix is a small blind-ended tube attached to the large intestine. Its inflammation happens gradually, like the formation of a boil. The inflamed appendix could burst, spreading the infection all over the abdomen. If this process is happening at a rapid pace, the appendix could burst in 24 hours. That is why any stomach ache that lasts almost 24 hours needs an expert’s attention.


  • A typical case of appendicitis has a classical triad of symptoms consisting of pain, vomiting and fever.
  • Initially, the child would have crampy pains around the navel for several hours.
  • It shifts to the lower right side only later. The child may also vomit a couple of times.
  • Your child may have a loss of appetite.
  • The bowels will be rarely loose; the child may pass urine very frequently.
  • The child may feel pain when she pulls his right knee up, when she stretches it way back, or when she walks around.
  • In infancy, the only indication that the child is suffering from appendicitis may be general irritability and an inclination to lie quietly with the legs pulled up at the knees.Remember, sudden relief in pain in a child suffering from acute appendicitis may point to perforation.


It is not always accompanied by fever and/or vomiting, but most patients have a loss of appetite. The pain is not necessarily severe. And, it is not always on the lower side of the abdomen until the appendicitis attack has been going on for some time. A blood count does not always prove that a child has appendicitis.


Appendicitis [Illustration by Shiju George]

What you could do:

  • Before the doctor arrives, check your child’s temperature and put her to bed.
  • Do not give her anything to eat. Certainly not a painkiller.
  • If she is thirsty, give her some water.