A Pulled Muscle or Appendicitis?
Do you know how to tell if your child has appendicitis? I didn’t either! But now that my daughter has had appendicitis, I know more. Keep reading her story or scroll down to see typical and atypical symptoms of appendicitis. My daughter, Molly, woke up one Saturday and told me that her stomach felt weird. She said it hurt in her upper abdomen and sort of radiated down to her right side. Pain on the right side can mean appendicitis, but she didn’t have a fever and wasn’t vomiting. She said her stomach was a little bit upset, but she was eating normally. It didn’t seem like appendicitis, so we didn’t head to the emergency room. We thought she must have a pulled muscle, so she put ice on it and the heating pad too. She took some Advil and just rested.
Sunday, the pain was still there; however, it really wasn’t any more localized or intense. She knew that she was having trouble sleeping, so we decided we should go to the emergency room to make sure it wasn’t appendicitis. We figured they could give her something for the pain, and she’d be able to sleep better.
Typical and Atypical symptoms of appendicitis
When the emergency room doctor came in to see her, Molly told him she thought she may have pulled a muscle since she had done that before. This pain was different though. The doctor asked her where it hurt, and she explained how it moved around. It hurt worse to push on it rather than the rebound. With appendicitis, they say the rebound pain is usually worse.
Did you know that 1 in 20 people in the US will get appendicitis?
Remember. Appendicitis is an emergency, and if you suspect that it’s appendicitis, go to the emergency room.
Typical appendicitis symptoms
- The first sign is usually a dull pain near the belly button or in the upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen.
- Fever of 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Pain may get worse with coughing, sneezing, going over bumps in the car, walking
Atypical appendicitis symptoms
- Back pain
- Painful urination
- Lack of “typical” symptoms but general pain in the abdomen (like Molly had)
- Vomiting before “typical” symptoms begin
In Molly’s case, her pain could have been any number of things, not just appendicitis or a pulled muscle. If your child is lacking the “typical” symptoms of appendicitis, but your intuition is telling you to go to the emergency room, go!
Tips for heading to the emergency room and what to expect
- Check the wait times Now, if your child is in severe pain, don’t do this! Go to the emergency room! But, if you’re not sure if it’s appendicitis or a pulled muscle, it doesn’t hurt to see how long you’re going to have to wait. If your insurance covers different hospitals, see which one has the shortest wait time.
- Be ready to provide your child’s medical history as well as a list of medications they take
- Expect the doctor to order tests If your child’s symptoms don’t present as typical (and sometimes even if they do), the doctor will order tests. Molly’s doctor ordered both a CAT scan and an ultrasound since we were so unsure.
- Blood work Blood work will be part of the testing in the emergency room. If your child is young, I recommend taking a favorite small stuffed animal for comfort. Blood work is never fun even for adults, but doctors can see if your child’s body is fighting an infection by looking at the results.
- Expect to wait for test results Test results are important, but they may take time especially if the emergency room is busy. Since your child might not be having typical appendicitis symptoms, the doctor will want to check to see if other organs could be causing the pain. Tests help to diagnose appendicitis.
Appendectomy Surgery and Recovery
Molly’s symptoms were so atypical that we were shocked to find out she had appendicitis! They scheduled surgery right away since she’d been having the pain for 36 hours at that point.
What to expect after an appendectomy
Recovery from surgery can go slower or faster depending on general health before getting sick, how well the patient follows doctor’s orders, reactions to medication, pain tolerance, etc. Follow your doctor’s orders closely for the quickest recovery. Even though laparoscopic appendectomy seems like a minor surgery because there are no big surgical incisions, laparoscopic appendectomy recovery time will be slower if you don’t treat it like the major surgery it is.
Here is how you may feel after your laparoscopic appendectomy:
- You may feel pretty rotten if you had a rotten appendix.
- Anesthesia may make you feel rotten too. Molly had a rough time with it. She got very cold, and she had to have lots of warm blankets for a few hours.
- You’ll probably move slowly for a few days.
- Your belly may be swollen for a while.
- You’re going to want to rest. Rest is best for recovery!
- My daughter was on IV antibiotics, and she went home with antibiotics as well. Depending on your level of infection, you may have to take antibiotics at home.
- It may take you a few weeks to feel completely normal after laparoscopic appendectomy surgery though you should feel much better after about a week. If you don’t feel better or you feel worse, call your doctor right away.
- Your incision scars will slowly fade though you’ll probably always see a faint scar. If any of your incisions get red, swollen or very sore, call your doctor since it may be infected.
Caregivers: What the patient might want from home
Appendicitis most often hits between the ages of 10 and 30, so most likely if it’s not you who has the appendicitis, it will be your child. And since appendicitis is most often diagnosed in the emergency room, you most likely won’t have items your child will want from home during their hospital stay. I definitely recommend you have someone head home or send someone to your house to pick up a few things the patient will likely want from home. If you’re going to be spending long hours with the patient, you’ll want things for you too!
Even Molly wants her stuffed dog when she’s not feeling well, so your little one, teen or young adult will probably want a familiar comfort item. If you have a book lover like I do, she’s going to want a book! In my case, I’d want my Kindle full of books, so I’d have options. Molly wanted her own face wash because it’s the only thing that works for her.
Here is a list of some things your patient (or you!) may want:
- Something to watch movies on or read books on like this Kindle Fire HD.
- Cell phone charger, tablet charger, laptop and its charger (if you need to work while your child is recovering)
- If your child is the patient, a tablet for them to play and watch movies on like this one.
- Ear plugs and an eye mask if you are a light sleeper…you know they may wake you up to check you during the night, but at least you’ll get some sleep.
- Underclothes and comfy, non-skid socks (those hospital socks slide all over your feet and don’t fit right!)
- Loose clothes to wear home like sweat pants and a loose top.
I’m sure you can think of more things you will want, so share them with me in case anyone else gets appendicitis!
Since not everyone has the “typical” symptoms of appendicitis, don’t self-diagnose. If you’ve got nagging abdominal pain, and you’re not sure if it is appendicitis, a pulled muscle or something else, see the doctor! You might just be shocked to find out it actually is what you thought it couldn’t be.