Parents are being warned not to ignore childhood stomach pains, after Australian doctors found one in 10 children presenting at hospital emergency departments with severe abdominal pain had potentially fatal acute appendicitis.
Their study suggests it can be difficult to readily diagnose dangerous appendicitis, and many parents may delay seeking medical help because they believe their children's stomach pain is not serious and will go away.
Appendicitis is swelling of the appendix, the small pouch attached to the large intestine. Typically pain worsens over 12 to 18 hours and eventually becomes severe. It can occur in anyone but is most common in young people aged 10 to 30.
Dr Kieran McCabe and Dr Sarah Dalton from the emergency department of the Children's Hospital at Westmead in Sydney made the finding as part of a study of emergency departments in Australia and New Zealand to examine current practices in managing children with possible acute appendicitis.
Up to half the cases of acute appendicitis in children were not immediately detected, leading to the risk of complications and possible death.
The survey of hundreds of physicians revealed that pain in the lower right side of the abdomen and loss of appetite were thought to be the strongest indicators of possible appendicitis.