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Gastritis in Children, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach lining and one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions. Gastritis is children is not very common when compared to the prevalence in adults.

However, it still one of the significant causes of recurring stomach pains in children. Gastritis in adults is mainly due to H.pylori infection and the chronic use of NSAIDs. While the latter is not frequently seen in children, there are a host of other causes that may lead to gastritis in children which may be extremely rare in adults with gastritis.

The stomach is a hollow sac that holds stomach acid and enzymes which are highly corrosive. In-built mechanisms prevent this from affecting the stomach lining.

The stomach secretes copious amounts of mucus which form a shield to the acid and enzymes. Sphincters on either end prevent the acid from entering the esophagus (food pipe) and slowly release the acid into the the first part of the small intestine (duodenum)  attached to the stomach.

The duodenum in turn has ways of neutralizing the acid and dealing with its presence. Gastritis is often a result of some mechanism or the other being disrupted and the stomach acid acting on the lining itself. The causative factor may also directly contribute to the inflammation to some degree as well.

Causes of Gastritis

H.pylori (Helicobater pylori) is a type of bacteria and is the most common cause of gastritis in both children and adults. It disrupts the mucus barrier in the stomach and attaches to the stomach lining. H.pylori infection is persistent and has a tendency to recur.

It is common in families and it is believed that it may be passed on by direct contact with infected parents or siblings. The exact manner in which this occurs is still unclear. Children who use medication constantly, possibly for some chronic disease, are more likely to develop gastritis as well.

Infections other than with H.pylori can lead to acute cases of gastritis. These infection are referred to as gastroenteritis and may be caused by viruses, bacteria and even fungi. It also involves the small intestine.

These types of infections may be more common in children who tend to put contaminated objects in their mouth during play. Sometimes the toxins of the bacteria in contaminated food and water may alone be responsible and this is known as food poisoning.

Children are more likely to eat indigestible substances which can irritate the stomach. Allergies and autoimmune diseases may also cause gastritis and when present, this is usually evident from childhood.

Signs and Symptoms of Gastritis

The signs and symptoms may not always be as obvious since children do not report symptoms as clearly as adults. Instead, crying and irritability with a lack of appetite and grasping at the belly may be all that is present. The clinical features of gastritis includes :

Vomit that has a ‘coffee ground’ appearance and passing of stool that is black and tarry may be indicate bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, particularly bleeding ulcers in chronic gastritis.

Treatment of Gastritis

H.pylori infection needs to be treated with antibiotics. This is known as eradication treatment and may have to be repeated. Acid suppressing drugs and medication to coat the stomach, particularly any ulcers, allows the stomach lining to heal.

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