10 Signs Of Appendicitis In Children That Adults Should Never, Ever Ignore

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Editor of Original Content at LittleThings. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for sites like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Unwritten. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law and Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

When most adults get stomachaches, they brush them off and move on with their day. If it’s really bad, maybe they’ll stay home from work and linger around the bathroom.

For the most part, we adults can tell whether something is seriously wrong or not. If we think something hurts more than it normally should, we look online or call our doctors for help.

When it comes to children, though, it’s an entirely different story. Kids get tummy aches all the time — it’s just another booboo parents deal with on a daily basis.

Children get bellyaches from anything and everything: not eating enough, eating too much, or just eating the wrong thing.

It’s nearly impossible to tell if your kid’s tummy hurts because of something serious or just something silly.

One possible cause of your child’s stomach pain is appendicitis, which is a serious medical condition that needs immediate treatment.

Read the following to learn more about appendicitis symptoms in children, and if you think you or your child may be suffering from appendicitis, call your doctor!

Thumbnail: Wikimedia / Wikimedia

What Is Appendicitis?

what is appendicitis?
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Appendicitis occurs when the appendix, an appendage (extension) of the colon, becomes inflamed (swollen) and infected. In many cases, an obstruction (blockage) within the appendix causes the infection, resulting in bacterial overgrowth.”

WebMD explains, “Appendicitis is a medical emergency that requires prompt surgery to remove the appendix.”

Who Gets Appendicitis?

who gets appendicitis?
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Anyone can get appendicitis, but according to Everyday Health, “Appendicitis most often affects people between the ages of 10 and 19 years.”

Because appendicitis is most common in children and young adults, it’s important that parents know the signs and symptoms.

What Causes Appendicitis?

general appendicitis symptoms
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

According to WebMD, “Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes blocked, often by stool, a foreign body, or cancer. Blockage may also occur from infection, since the appendix swells in response to any infection in the body.”

What Are The Symptoms Of Appendicitis In Kids?

child appendicitis symptoms
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Although many children experience the same appendicitis symptoms as adults, it is often harder for doctors to diagnose appendicitis in children.

Parents magazine explains that “approximately 80,000 children in the United States suffer from it every year. Although it’s most common in kids over age 10, more than 80 percent of children younger than 3 who have the illness already have a rupture by the time they reach the operating room.”

The magazine continues: “Many of them had been seen and sent home at least once by a health-care professional. That’s because in the very early stages, the condition can be hard to diagnose, especially when patients are too young to accurately describe their symptoms.”

In addition, Everyday Health explains that “research suggests, however, that appendicitis usually affects children differently than adults.”

Here’s what to look out for.

Child Appendicitis Symptom #1: High Fever

child appendicitis fever
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Although adults with appendicitis may have a low-grade fever, children with appendicitis may have a higher, more noticeable fever.

Everyday Health says that “some studies suggest that kids between the ages of 2 and 5 most often experience stomachaches and vomiting if they have appendicitis; fever and loss of appetite also frequently occur.”

Child Appendicitis Symptom #2: "Rebound Tenderness"

child appendicitis rebound tenderness
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

“Rebound tenderness” is a symptom that is very child-specific.

Everyday Health explains: “Along with abdominal pain, most kids with appendicitis often experience a fever and a symptom known as ‘rebound tenderness,’ a sharp pain that develops after pressure is placed on the lower right abdominal area and quickly released.”

Stanford Children’s Health explains rebound tenderness in the following way: “Pain when the abdomen is pressed, particularly if pressed and then released suddenly.”

Child Appendicitis Symptom #3: Elevated White-Blood-Cell Count

child appendicitis white blood cell count
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Children might have an elevated white-blood-cell count if they have appendicitis, so this is something a doctor might check to diagnose a child.

What Are The General Symptoms Of Appendicitis?
Appendicitis Symptom #1: Loss Of Appetite

loss of appetite
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Appendicitis has a variety of symptoms, but there are some classic signs and symptoms  that many people experience, including both children and adults.

In addition to the child-specific symptoms listed above, children may also experience any or all of the following general symptoms.

One symptom of appendicitis is a lack of appetite. If your child is refusing food (and if this is uncharacteristic for them), it’s something you should definitely keep an eye on.

Appendicitis Symptom #2: Nausea And Vomiting

nausea and vomiting
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Nausea and/or vomiting are also typical symptoms of appendicitis.

Most commonly, nausea and vomiting occur soon after people start to experience abdominal pain.

Appendicitis Symptom #3: Low-Grade Fever

low grade fever
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Many times, adults with appendicitis will experience a low-grade fever.

Usually, this fever will range from 99 to 102 °F.

Appendicitis Symptom #4: Dull Abdominal Pain

appendicitis abdominal pain
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

WebMD explains that one of the symptoms of appendicitis is “dull pain near the navel or upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen. This is usually the first sign. Almost half the time, other symptoms of appendicitis appear, including dull or sharp pain anywhere in the upper or lower abdomen, back, or rectum.”

Appendicitis Symptom #5: Inability To Pass Gas

appendicitis inability to pass gas
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Because appendicitis usually comes from an intestinal blockage, many people experiencing appendicitis will be unable to pass gas, which can be quite uncomfortable.

Appendicitis Symptom #6: Abdominal Swelling

appendicitis abdominal swelling
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed, so people will often find that their abdomen swells up.

Although abdominal swelling can be a symptom of many illnesses, it can be an indicator of appendicitis if it is combined with other previously mentioned symptoms.

Appendicitis Symptom #7: Constipation Or Diarrhea

appendicitis constipation or diarrhea
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Although it’s not as common as some of the other symptoms, WebMD explains that “almost half the time, other symptoms of appendicitis appear, including constipation or diarrhea with gas.”

What Are Some Less Common Symptoms Of Appendicitis?

appendicitis other symptoms
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

In addition to the above symptoms, there are other less common signs and symptoms, including:

  • severe cramps
  • painful urination and difficulty passing urine
  • bloody vomit or stool
  • inability to stand up straight
  • pain that worsens during sudden movement (coughing, sneezing, etc.)
  • abdominal bloating

For children, less common signs and symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Green liquid vomit. This could be bile, a sign of torsion (twisting or blockage) of the stomach or intestines. The condition must be treated quickly.
  • Distended abdomen. This can mean obstruction or other problems such as appendicitis.
  • Child complaining of abdominal pain while lying on his or her side with legs drawn up toward abdomen. This often occurs when appendicitis is present.
  • Child complaining of abdominal pain while walking bent at the middle. This can mean appendicitis.

When Should You Seek Medical Help?

child appendicitis seek medical help
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Because children often have tummy aches, it’s not necessarily a sign of something more serious.

“Usually, the abdominal pain your child is experiencing is the result of something that’s not life threatening, such as constipation, gas, strep throat, swallowing lots of air, anxiety, or mild food allergies,” explains Everyday Health.

Appendicitis is difficult to diagnose due to its varying symptoms, so it’s important to call your doctor if you notice your child has a worsening stomachache, one that lasts for more than a day, or experiences more than one of the above symptoms.

Again, if you’re ever unsure, call your doctor — it’s much better to catch appendicitis early, so it’s never a problem to check in with your general practitioner.

And if it ends up just being a normal tummy ache, your doctor may still have some suggestions to ease discomfort.

Every parent and grandparent should be aware of appendicitis symptoms, so please SHARE this article with your friends and family!