Appendectomy in Children: What to Expect at Home

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Inflamed appendix

Your Child's Recovery

Your child had an appendectomy. The doctor removed your child's appendix either through several small cuts, called incisions, in the belly (laparoscopic surgery) or through one large incision in the belly (open surgery). The incisions leave scars that usually fade with time.

After surgery, your child may feel weak and tired for several days after coming home. Your child's belly may be swollen and painful. After a laparoscopy, your child may have shoulder pain. This is caused by the air the doctor put in your child's belly to help see the organs better. The pain may last for a day or two. Your child may also have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, gas, or a headache. These problems usually go away in a few days. Most children are back to many of their usual activities about a week after surgery.

Your child's body will work just fine without an appendix. You won't have to make any changes in your child's diet or lifestyle.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for your child at home?


  • Allow your child to slowly become more active. Have them rest as much as needed. Make sure your child gets enough sleep at night.
  • Your child should not ride a bike, play running games or contact sports, or take part in gym class until your doctor says it is okay. It is okay for your child to walk and play with other children or play with toys.
  • Until the doctor says it is okay, your child should avoid lifting anything that would make them strain. This may include heavy milk containers, a heavy backpack, or a medium-sized pet.
  • Your child may shower if the doctor says it is okay. Pat the incision dry after the shower. Do not let your child take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until the doctor tells you it is okay. If your child has a drain coming out of the incision, follow the doctor's instructions about bathing.
  • Your child will probably be able to go back to school or most of their usual activities in a week or 2. If your child had an open surgery, it may take longer.


  • Your child can eat their normal diet. If your child's stomach is upset, start with small amounts of food.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after surgery. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call the doctor.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart any medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • If your child's appendix ruptured, you will need to give them antibiotics. Give them as instructed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Your child may need pain medicine for the first week. If the doctor prescribed medicine for severe pain, give it to your child as instructed.
  • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, you can give them an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for mild pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to.
  • If your child feels sick to their stomach:
    • Do not give pain medicines on an empty stomach. Give your child pain medicines after meals or with a snack (unless the doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask the doctor for a different pain medicine if you think the one you have makes your child sick.
    • Talk to your child's doctor about trying a motion sickness medicine.

Incision care

  • If your child had an open surgery, the incision may be closed with surgical staples. The doctor will take these out in 7 to 10 days.
  • If your child has strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on until it falls off.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about cleaning the area around your child's incision.
  • Keep the area clean and dry. You may cover it with a gauze bandage if it oozes or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day or more often if needed.
  • If your child's appendix ruptured, they may have an incision with packing in it. Change the packing as often as your child's doctor tells you to.
    • Packing changes may hurt at first. Giving your child pain medicine about half an hour before you change the packing can help.
    • If the dressing sticks to the wound, try soaking it with warm water for about 10 minutes before you remove it. You can do this by having your child take a shower or by placing a wet washcloth over the dressing.
    • Remove the old packing and rinse out the incision with water. Gently pat the top area dry.
    • The size of the incision is the guide for how much gauze you need to put inside. Fold the gauze over once, but do not wad it up so that it hurts. Put it in the wound carefully. You want to keep the sides of the wound from touching. A cotton swab may help you push in the gauze as needed.
    • Put a gauze pad over the wound, and tape it down.
    • You may notice yellow or grayish fluid oozing from the wound as it starts to heal. This is normal. It is a sign that the wound is healing.

Other instructions

  • If your child's appendix ruptured, they may have a tube that drains fluid from the incision. The doctor will tell you how to take care of it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child is short of breath.

Call the doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has nausea or vomiting and cannot drink fluids.
  • Your child has pain that does not get better after taking pain medicine.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your child's incision.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • Your child cannot pass stools or gas.
  • Your child has signs of a blood clot in the leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in the leg or groin.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact the doctor if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.