Know your “FACS”: Is it an appendicitis or just a stomach ache? 19

Today I have a really special guest blogger, who I consider a bit of an expert on appendicitis.  No, my good friend Debbie Shemony is not a doctor, but two of her four children have had an appendicitis in the past 3 years. If my kids ever have a stomach ache I would first turn to Debbie then call the doctor.  Since stomach aches are so common in children I asked Debbie to write a post for me based on her personal experiences.  If you are not sure if your child might have an appendicitis please call your pediatrician or visit the Emergency Room.  Thank you to Debbie for writing this informative post. I hope Debbie will come back as a guest poster again soon.  Pictured below are Debbie’s two kids who had an appendicitis at ages 9
and 11. Today they are perfectly happy and healthy because they had their appendix removed in time.


Know your “FACS”: How to diagnose early symptoms of  an appendicitis in your child

By, Debbie Shemony, cookwith5kids guest blogger

I hate to say it but I’m an appendicitis expert (okay, I said it.)While it isn’t a title I’m proud of, the truth is, I’ve become an expert by default. Two out of my four children had appendicitis in the last three years. So at this point, the very least I can do is help other parents recognize the early warning signs and symptoms. And that’s why, when my wonderful friend, Sara, invited me to share this information with her followers I jumped at the opportunity! So let’s begin…..

My daughter was 11 when she had appendicitis and my younger son was 9 when he had his. For both of them, it began as a stomach ache that seemed to get worse over the course of a few hours.  In my daughter’s case there were lots of phrases like “ugh, I’m not feeling good, I can’t go to school” and “blech, my stomach really hurts, I don’t want to go to school” that she uttered when it started.

My initial reaction was, “Sure. Yeah. Right. Classic Ferris Bueller. You just don’t want to go to school today.” When it comes to stomach aches, a lot of us might react the same way to our kids complaining about how their stomach hurts and how they don’t want to go to school.  But the difference with appendicitis (and here’s the important part) is that over the course of just a few hours, stomach pains tend to get A LOT worse. And those pains are often accompanied by a loss of appetite, chills and fever.  All of this rolls in pretty quickly, typically in less than 24 hours.

So, the primary signs and symptoms of appendicitis in your child will probably look like this:

*A stomach ache that gets worse over a short period of time coupled with pains that hurt a HECK of a lot more than your typical upset stomach
*Rapid loss of appetite
*Tender when you push on the stomach even gently
*Fever (not always, but often)

Or, for an easier way to remember it, look for the FACS:

F: Fever

A: Appetite loss

C: Chills

S: Stomach pains

With my daughter, I took her to her pediatrician about 12 hours into it.  The pediatrician pressed on her stomach, looked into her eyes and said “I think you should take her to the hospital.  Just To Be Sure.” “Just To Be Sure” were the words that sent a chill down my spine and suggested that appendicitis might be in the cards.

Once we arrived at the hospital, the next ten hours looked something like this (again, a typical scenario when they’re trying to diagnose appendicitis):

*Lots of questions about medical history and symptoms
*Blood test
*(Sometimes) a CAT scan if the ultrasound isn’t definitive
*Surgery – if the diagnosis is appendicitis


The good news is, you don’t need your appendix to live a long and healthy life!  This is the primary reason why, if appendicitis is suspected, most doctors will err on the side of caution and remove your child’s appendix to avoid rupture. A ruptured appendix is serious business. Left untreated, it can quickly spread infection throughout your abdomen, resulting in bacteria in the blood, and leading to death in some cases. It is a situation you absolutely want to avoid at all costs.

As far as surgery goes, the majority of appendectomies today are performed laparoscopically, which is a minimally invasive surgical technique that kids tend to heal much faster from (you can learn more about laparoscopic surgery here), In fact, both of my kids spent less than 48 hours in the hospital and returned to P.E., sports and other activities fairly quickly (within 3-4 weeks). Cosmetically, laparoscopic surgery also offers better results; my daughter, who is now 14, can barely see the small scars from her incisions.

Having gone through appendicitis twice, I will say that knowledge is power. Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of appendicitis and differentiating them from an upset stomach or food poisoning, is the key to early diagnosis and prevention of emergency surgery.  As I like to say, make smarter decisions by knowing your FACS!

P.S.  One final note. Make sure you know what portion of major or emergency procedures your health insurance covers. I was SHOCKED to learn that the hospital bill from my son’s appendectomy three weeks ago was a whopping $24,000. Even if you’re only paying a small portion of the bill, it can still be a significant amount!

Follow Debbie on Twitter here and keep up with her funny quips.  Thanks for guest posting Debbie!

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