Disclaimer: This is based on personal experience, I am not a medical professional and you should make your own decisions.
Well after my son’s appendectomy Sunday, I learned a lot about symptoms of appendicitis that I thought others might find helpful. When we were trying to decide if we should go to the hospital, I searched the web for information and although I found some, I learned more in the process and so I thought adding that knowledge to the web for others searching would be helpful.
I will start with our story and then summarize the information I learned.
My son is 16. He has some special needs. He came to us around 4 pm and said his side hurt. We looked and didn’t see anything visible so we told him to let us know if it got worse. Around 7:00, he said it still hurt. I had him lie down on the couch and point to where it hurt. It was low and on the right side. Way low and way to the right, not in an area associated with a usual tummy ache and his other side didn’t bother him at all. We felt his head and it felt warm. His temp was 99.5. Due to the location of the pain, we looked up appendicitis, it said the symptoms were: temperature under 101, nausea and vomiting, and of course pain in the lower right side. Since he had pain and barely a fever, we continued to wait – but it wasn’t long before his temp rose to 100.6 and he said he felt sick to his stomach. That was enough for us to decide we were going to go to the ER.
At the ER, the check in lady didn’t really take us seriously as she wrote “abdominal pain,” and then we had to wait. He was feeling terrible. By the time we finally got called into triage, the check in lady said she needed his weight but he could barely walk and couldn’t stand any longer. She didn’t seem to care about that but I was firm, he needed to sit first. He asked for a bucket and Joe was going to give him the waste basket but the check in lady wanted him to have one of those pink trays, however, she couldn’t find one. She said, “wait a minute,” and left the room to find one. Right, let me wait to puke… not going to happen, while she was away, we grabbed the wastepaper basket and he started throwing up. She eventually came back with a pink tray and switched that out, it seemed stupid, he was already using the waste basket!
Afterwards, she realized she wasn’t going to get his weight and maybe he had an appendicitis! She got help and people started moving now that they were taking this seriously. She got him into a room while she took his history from me. Here are the other things that I didn’t know were also things to look for in an appendicitis: it hurts to walk. She asked him that and we told her yes, it was obvious, he couldn’t even stand! There is also supposed to be rebound pain, when you push, it hurts the the releasing of it causes more pain the the pushing. He didn’t show this but he isn’t really good at differentiating that sort of stuff. They put in an iv and gave him anti-nausea meds, both those things helped a lot. They took his blood and it showed an elevated white blood count of 1700. They were going to do a ct scan that would require him drinking 2 liters of contrast, waiting 1.5 hours for the contrast to get where it needed to go, doing the scan, and then waiting for the doctor to read it and it could give a false negative. So, the ER doctor, who was great, called his buddy at the hospital (we were at stand alone ER) and told us that with all his symptoms: the location of the pain, the fever, the vomiting, his age (this is a common age for this), and his white blood count, he felt fairly certain it was an appendicitis and that we should go have the surgery. We agreed and they transported him to the other hospital.
We arrived and had to wait until the surgeon was ready. My son had intermittent pain and they gave him pain meds. Finally, they took him in at 4:00 am. We had went to the ER at 10:00 pm. The surgery was done in 1 hour. It was laproscopic. He had 3 small cuts. He didn’t wake up (from sleeping, not cuz of the surgery) until 2:00 pm the next day and we went home about 1 hour after he woke up. He has been in mild pain and only takes Norco every once in a while. They do use CO2 gas to blow everything up to see the organs and his stomach is bloated and he feels pain from that (which pain pills don’t help with). He will stay home from school for 1 week.
The surgeon said his appendix was inflamed but not ruptured. We had caught it early which I am really glad about. Strange enough, my neighbors son also had an appendectomy last week but his ruptured and he has been in the hospital for over a week now. This just shows you that you should not wait, if you have the signs, check it out or the recovery can be sooo much harder, never mind life threatening.
So – if you are wondering – do I (or my child) have appendicitis? Should we go to the ER? Here are the symptoms to look for:
1. Fever of 99-101 (I guess it could be higher if you have ruptured and it is really serious but at that point, you won’t be reading here, you will know you need to go! If it is pre-rupture, usually the temp is on the lower side – my son was 99.6 and then 100.6).
2. Pain in the lower right abdomen – it is pretty low, well below belly button. The doctors say it can move and start out higher and then end up lower. I asked my son if he had pain before he told us about it and he did say yes. Also, check the rebound test – if the pain is worse after you release, head out to the hospital – but if not, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an appendicitis as my son didn’t really feel it was worse.
3. Nausea and/or vomiting – it was when we hit 3 symptoms that I decided that it might not just be a virus. Remember that most stomach viruses are not accompanied by fever.
4. Hurts to walk – I didn’t find this anywhere online but the doctors in the ER all asked this. My son found lying down helped him a lot but walking made things much worse.’
5. Raised white blood cells – of course, this has to be done at the doctor / ER to find out.
Also don’t wait until it ruptures, if you think you have these signs, get it checked out. Dealing with a ruptured appendix is not something you want to deal with. So, I hope this helps if you are looking for symptoms of appendicitis.