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What Is Appendicitis?

Your appendix (say: uh-PEN-dix) is a small, finger-shaped pouch connected to your large intestine, in the lower right part of your belly.

If the appendix gets infected, it's called appendicitis (say: uh-pen-di-SYE-tis). A doctor will operate to take out the infected appendix. This is called an appendectomy (app-en-DEK-tuh-me).

The appendix isn't needed. So if a kid has it removed, his or her body will work fine after the operation.

The appendix is a small, finger-shaped tube connected to the large intestine. It is in the lower belly, near where the large and small intestines join up.

What Causes Appendicitis?

There isn't always an obvious reason why appendicitis happens. Sometimes it happens after there is an infection in the intestine. Sometimes something causes a blockage in the appendix.

Appendicitis is not contagious. This means you can't catch it from anyone who has it. But there isn't much you can do to prevent appendicitis from happening.

How Do People Know if They Have It?

People have different types of symptoms when they have appendicitis. Someone with appendicitis might feel as if he or she is having stomach cramps or bad indigestion.

Usually, the first symptom is a bellyache around the belly button. The bellyache can be worse with moving, jumping, coughing, or deep breaths. Sometimes, vomiting follows. After a few hours, the pains tend to move down to the lower right side of the belly. Sometimes the pain can become sharp and intense in this area — enough to keep a kid up at night.

A person with appendicitis will not feel very hungry and might have a slight fever.

What Do Doctors Do?

Any time you have belly pain, you should tell your mom, dad, or other adult who's caring for you. If your doctor thinks you could have appendicitis, you would need to go in for an office visit or to the emergency department. At either place, a doctor will examine you, paying close attention to your belly.

The doctor can check for tenderness over your belly, especially over the lower right side. This spot hurts if a kid has appendicitis.

The doctor may test a small blood sample or a urine sample. Sometimes, doctors will take a special picture like an X-ray, CAT scan, or ultrasound of the belly.

If the doctor decides that a kid has appendicitis, the appendix will be removed in an appendectomy. You won't be able to eat or drink anything until after this operation.

To prepare for surgery, a kid will get anesthesia. This puts him or her into a kind of deep sleep and keeps the kid from feeling pain during the surgery.

During the operation, a surgeon will make a small cut in the abdomen and remove the appendix. The operation will leave a tiny scar.

After the Appendix Is Gone

After an appendectomy, a kid will stay in the hospital for a day or two. The time that kids need to recover from this operation varies, but they usually return to school in about a week. Be sure to ask your doctor if you have any questions about this.

A kid who's had an appendectomy will feel better soon, and won't feel any different without an appendix. And here's some more good news: The kid won't ever have to worry about appendicitis again!

Reviewed by: Ryan J. Brogan, DO
Date Reviewed: 02-07-2018

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