by Carol Glassman

Young woman with stomach issues

When we were young and went crying to our mothers with a tummy ache, she likely asked us the most obvious question:  what did you eat? Chances are, unless we had managed to pick up some 24-hour virus that was causing our upset stomach, she was on the right track. Perhaps we and our mischievous friends had been pilfering and eating unripe apples from neighboring trees, or helping ourselves to unlimited candy. What might have followed could have been some home-made remedy or a spoonful of castor oil or milk of magnesia in an effort to either ‘drive out the demons’ or calm down their environment.

With the advent of advice from ‘newspaper doctors’ and the internet, our mothers’ knowledge might have become far more sophisticated.

“Where exactly is the pain?” she might ask today. “How long have you had it? Does it hurt when I press here?”

She still might quiz us on what we have eaten and about any other symptoms, knowing that stomach aches are often not so simple, either with adults or children. The best advice will always be, don’t try to second-guess what is going on if someone is experiencing pain, especially if it is accompanied by fever and vomiting: get professional help.

For a relatively small (could be 6 inches long) pouch attached to the large intestine, the appendix can cause large problems if it should become inflamed. Appendicitis can occur quickly and should the appendix rupture before it is removed, it can become a life-threatening situation.

Not everyone will exhibit the same or all of the symptoms which may include abdominal bloating, steady pain around the navel which moves to the lower right-hand side of the abdomen and becomes very sharp with time, chills and or fever, nausea and vomiting.  Doctors advise not to attempt home remedies or to take anything by mouth, but to seek emergency help immediately. Approximately 300,000 Americans have an appendectomy each year.

A recent Finnish study reported in the New York Times (June 16, 2015), that patients between the ages of 18 – 60, exhibiting symptoms that had not lasted more than two days and showed no complications, were given a choice of surgery or antibiotics. Three out of four patients who took the antibiotics recovered easily, and those who still needed the surgery afterwards were no worse off for having waited.

The article went on to say, “An American group is planning a clinical trial comparing laparoscopic surgery and a less powerful antibiotic than used in the Finnish study, given either as an injection followed by pills or as a one-day intravenous infusion followed by pills.

“Conceivably, it could cost the medical system more in the end to keep treating these people unnecessarily than to simply remove their appendix with laparoscopic surgery during their initial bout with appendicitis.”

As one of the doctor’s involved in the trial, Dr. David Flum of the University of Washington said, “Obviously, you can treat appendicitis with an antibiotic, but from a patient’s point of view, should you?”

As doctors explore methods and costs, we may have more options for our upset stomachs in the future.


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