KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An intensive, sudden pain in the stomach can be scary, especially for children. It could be appendicitis, which requires surgery.

The appendix is a small organ attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the belly. When it gets infected, it’s called appendicitis. Appendicitis is one of the most common reasons for emergency abdominal surgery in children. Those ages 11 to 20 are the most at risk but it can happen to younger children.

Parents are urged to call a doctor immediately if their child begins showing symptoms, including:

  • Strong pain, mainly around the belly button or in the lower right part of the belly (the pain might come and go at first, then grow steady and intense)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea (especially small amounts, with mucus)
  • Swollen belly

If untreated, the inflamed appendix can burst 24 to 72 hours after symptoms begin. A ruptured appendix can spread bacteria and infection throughout the body.

Appendicitis can be tough to diagnose, but East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has an ultrasound tool which is helpful to emergency rooms doctors in determining the cause of pain.

To treat appendicitis, a surgeon will take out the infected appendix in a procedure called an appendectomy. According to East Tennesee Children’s Hospital, most surgeons use a small device called a laparoscope to remove the appendix through a small cut on the belly. Children who get this surgery usually stay in the hospital for a day. Doctors say that once the appendix is removed the child’s body will function just fine.