Appendicitis is an acute inflammation of the appendix, a thin, tube-shaped structure that protrudes from the first section of the large intestine. The appendix can become inflamed due either to an anatomical obstruction or a blockage of hardened feces. This inflammation can rapidly develop into an infection.
Symptoms of appendicitis usually begin with pain around the umbilicus that intensifies over several hours and moves to the lower right quadrant of the abdomen. This area will be very tender to even light pressure, and you may notice your child holding or protecting it. A decreased appetite, vomiting, and fever are frequently present. Diarrhea may be present as well, and extending the right leg may make the pain worse.
An inflamed appendix can burst, causing a life-threatening infection of the abdominal wall. If this happens, your child will rapidly become very ill, with a fever, pale color, and
severe abdominal pain. Although a complaint of continuous abdominal pain is a key indicator of appendicitis, some children experience a milder onset of pain that comes and goes over
several days before settling in as constant and severe. If you suspect appendicitis, seek immediate medical care.
In order to diagnose appendicitis, a doctor will want to know details of when the pain began and the location and quality of the pain. Your doctor will do an abdominal and rectal exam,
take a sample of blood to look for signs of an infection, and might order an x-ray or ultra-
sound scan to look for signs of blockage or inflammation.
If a diagnosis of appendicitis is confirmed, surgery to remove the inflamed appendix is the recommended course of treatment. Because of the danger that the appendix may rupture, surgery is usually done soon after the diagnosis is made.
To lower the risk of infection, your child may be given antibiotics before and immediately after surgery. If his appendix has ruptured, your child will definitely need intravenous antibiotics, and may need to be hospitalized for one to two weeks.
Because of the surgery and the manipulation of your child’s digestive tract, the intestines will slow down, and may even stop moving for a day or two. Your child may have a nasogastric tube, a tube placed in the nose and down into the stomach, that uses suction to pull the contents of the stomach out of the body. This prevents nausea and vomiting. Except for an occasional ice chip, your child will not be able to eat or drink anything until his
intestines begin working again. He will receive intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and pain medication to help relieve discomfort.
Your child will have to get up out of bed and walk the day after surgery. Even though this
may seem like a daunting task, the importance of movement cannot be overemphasized. Among other things, walking helps the intestines to begin working again, and helps to prevent pneumonia from developing.
Even after your doctor gives full permission for him to eat, your child may have little or
no appetite. Begin slowly by offering clear liquids, such as broth, juices, and herbal teas.
To allow your child’s gastrointestinal tract to readjust to food, gradually work up to a full diet. Prepare whole, well-cooked foods that are full of the many vitamins and minerals your child’s body needs to heal and regain energy.
Homemade applesauce and soups are excellent “starter” foods for a child who has undergone surgery. Foods high in beta-carotene, such as squash and cooked greens, are also important.
Try to avoid giving your child any gas-producing foods, such as nuts and legumes, for the
first two weeks after surgery.
For age-appropriate dosages of some nutritional supplements, see page 81.
Beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, helps to soothe injured mucous. membranes and heal tissue. Give your child one dose of beta-carotene each day for one month.
Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus are both very good for restoring bowel health after the trauma of surgery and potent antibiotics. Follow the dosage directions on the product label and
give your child one dose, twice a day, for one month. Then give your child one dose, once a day, for the second month.
The B vitamins help to restore strength. Give your child a liquid or capsule B-complex supplement, once a day, for one month.
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids aid in tissue repair and in decreasing inflammation. Give your child one dose of each, one to two times a day, for one month.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant nutrient and is a mild but effective natural anti-inflammatory. Give your child one dose, twice a day, for one month.
Zinc hastens wound and tissue healing and supports the immune system. Give your child a total of one dose of zinc each day for one month.
Note: Excessive amounts of zinc can result in nausea and vomiting. Be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage. Zinc is easiest on the stomach when taken at the beginning of a meal.
Herbal treatment for appendicitis is directed at supporting recovery from surgery. It is not meant to be a substitute for surgical treatment. If you suspect appendicitis, seek medical treatment for your child immediately. For age-appropriate dosages of herbal remedies, see page 81.
Once the crisis is over, follow the regimen below to help your child recover.
Days 1-3: Give your child an echinacea and goldenseal combination formula to help detoxify the chemicals remaining in his blood after anesthesia. Echinacea and goldenseal also support the immune system and can help prevent a possible infection in a surgical wound. Give your child one dose, two to three times daily.
Days 4-7: Give your child one dose of astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), three times daily. With its rich concentration of trace minerals and micronutrients, astragalus helps to strengthen the immune system. Do not give this herb to a child with a fever, however. If there is fever, continue giving your child echinacea and goldenseal until the fever is gone (but not for more than ten days in a row, or it will lose its effectiveness).
Days 8-14: Give your child one dose of American ginseng, three times daily. This is another excellent source of trace minerals and micronutrients, and will help strengthen your child’s internal defences.
Note: This herb should not be given if fever or any other signs of infection are present.
Days 15-21: Give your child two to three doses of nettle and/or gotu kola daily. These herbs contain many trace minerals, are very useful for healing wounds, and are good general tonics.
Note: Neither gotu kola nor nettle should be given to a child under four years of age. Also, some children experience stomach upset as a result of taking nettle. If this happens, discontinue use of the herb.
Days 21-35: Give your child one dose of minor bupleurum formula, twice daily. This is a Chinese herbal combination that is a good tonic and will help to restore strength.
Note: Minor bupleurum should not be given to a child with a fever or any other sign of an acute infection.
Once the wound has closed and healing has begun, and your surgeon gives you the okay, gently rub vitamin E oil, castor oil, or evening primrose oil into the wound to minimize scarring.
Homeopathic treatment for appendicitis is directed at supporting recovery from surgery. It is not meant to be a substitute for surgical treatment. If you suspect appendicitis, seek professional medical treatment for your child immediately.
If your child seems to have had an adverse reaction to anesthesia, give him one dose of Nux vomica 30x or 200x to help lessen the side effects. Then follow this regimen to aid your child in his recovery from surgery.
Days 1-2: Give your child one dose of Arnica 30x or 9c, three or four times daily. Arnica helps to decrease inflammation following surgery and speeds the healing process.
Days 3-4: Give your child one dose of Staphysagria 30x or 15c, three times a day, to help the incision heal.
Day 4: To further hasten healing, give your child Ledum 12x or 6c, three times during the day.
Days 5-6: For nerve pain following surgery, give your child one dose of Hypericum 6x or 5c, three times a day.
For the locations of acupressure points on a child’s body, see Administering an Acupressure Treatment.
Massaging the stomach meridian, particularly Stomach 36, will help tone the digestive tract and speed recovery.
To ensure a full and strong recovery after surgery, adequate rest is essential. Limit visitors and create a calm and familiar environment.
Once discharged from the hospital, your child will have periods of fatigue. Resuming a daily routine is probably fine, although he may need more rest than usual until his full strength is back. To help increase his energy level, you can give your child a liquid B-complex supplement for two weeks. One dose of American ginseng, given at approximately 11:00 A.M. daily, can also be helpful.
Contact sports, heavy lifting, and abdominal exercises must be avoided for as long as your doctor recommends, probably for six to eight weeks after surgery.
There is no known way to prevent your child from developing appendicitis. Your best defense against the disease is to be aware of its characteristic symptoms, so that if your child develops appendicitis, he can be treated promptly and recover without complications.
From Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Janet Zand, N.D., L.Ac., Robert Rountree, MD, Rachel Walton, RN, ©1994. Published by Avery Publishing, New York. For personal use only; neither the digital nor printed copy may be copied or sold. Reproduced by permission.