The appendix is a finger-shaped pouch attached to the colon (large intestine), located within the right lower side of the abdomen (belly). Appendicitis occurs when the lining of the appendix becomes inflamed due to blockage by an appendicolith (stool ball) or possibly due to the presence of an infection. As the inflammation worsens, the appendix begins to swell or enlarge, and may fill with pus. The lining of the appendix may also break down or potentially rupture.

If appendicitis is not recognized early enough, your child’s appendix can burst and lead to a serious, life-threatening infection that can spread throughout the body. Because the appendix is not a vital organ, the most effective treatment for appendicitis is using surgery to remove it.

Symptoms of Appendicitis

Signs and symptoms of appendicitis may include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that begins quickly – often around the belly button – and then moves to the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Pain that worsens with walking, coughing or making sudden movements

When to see a doctor

If your child experiences any of the above symptoms – especially severe abdominal pain – they should be evaluated either by their pediatrician or brought to the nearest emergency room. Appendicitis is considered an emergency medical situation and should be treated promptly.

Causes of Appendicitis

Appendicitis is thought to be inflammation of the appendix related to infection and/or blockage. This leads to swelling and can even lead to the formation of a hole in the lining of the appendix, called a perforation. A perforation can allow the infection to spread into the abdomen.

Who’s at risk

People of any age can develop appendicitis. There are no known risk factors.

Find a Location

Find the closest ER to you

If you suspect that your child may have appendicitis, find the closest emergency room to you so your child can start on the road to improved health.