Appendix: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

The appendix is a little organ located in your abdomen, and we don't usually give it much thought until something's wrong with it. In this lesson, we'll learn a little bit about where the appendix is and what it might be used for.

What is the Appendix?

Carl remembers the day in elementary school when he woke up and had a terrible stomachache. Even though he insisted to his mom that he didn't feel well, she made Carl go to school. Carl made it to his third class before the pain on his right side was too much to handle, and he told the teacher what was wrong.

His teacher sent him to the school nurse, and the nurse called his mom to come pick him up. She took him to the doctor and his doctor told him something was wrong with his appendix and that it would have to be removed! Carl was scared, but the surgery didn't take long and he felt much better afterwards.

Most people don't spend much time thinking about their appendix until they have a problem with it. The appendix is a small organ located off the large intestine, right around the area where the small and large intestines meet.

The appendix is located in the abdomen, near the intestines.
appendix diagram

As you can see from the image, the appendix is a little tube-shaped pouch, like a little finger, about 4 inches long. In most people, it's located on the right side of their abdomen.

What Does the Appendix Do?

Scientists disagree on what the appendix actually does. Some think it's a leftover organ from earlier humans but that it no longer serves any purpose.

Other scientists think it's responsible for returning good bacteria to the gut after an infection. If the appendix really does serve as a source of good bacteria, then it is an important part of the human immune system.

Problems with the Appendix

You might know someone like Carl who has had his or her appendix removed. Why does this happen? Most of the time, you don't even know your appendix is there, but sometimes the appendix can become swollen and infected, a condition called appendicitis. When the appendix gets infected, it grows in size and can eventually burst. When this happens, it causes a lot of pain.

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