Do you ever wonder whether abdominal pain warrants a call to the doctor, or even a visit to the emergency room? How can you tell?
One worry with children and teens is appendicitis. The appendix is a small, tubular-shaped organ in the lower right abdomen, that has no known function. Sometimes it can become inflamed and needs to be surgically removed. If left alone, an inflamed appendix can rupture and cause very serious illness.
Appendicitis can occur at any age, and is often difficult to diagnose.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great article here about appendicitis. The main symptom is pain, which begins as a “vague stomachache near the navel,” and then is described as a combination of a sense of fullness and pressure on the lower right side. Here is the complete list of symptoms they give, some of which are similar to stomach viruses, and some of which are different:
- “Persistent abdominal pain that migrates from the midsection to the right lower abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Gas pain
- Low fever, beginning after other symptoms
- Tenderness in the right lower abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
- Elevated white blood cell count
- Appetite loss.”
Call your doctor immediately if your teen or child experiences these symptoms. Have him lie quietly and “don’t offer water, food, laxatives, aspirin or a heating pad.” Any movement can increase her pain. If appendicitis is suspected, a blood test (to determine white blood cell count) will likely be taken, possibly with other diagnostic tests.
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