Gastritis is a stomach condition that is most frequently seen in older people. The condition causes the stomach lining to inflate, leading to pain, nausea, bloating, and discomfort. Gastritis is usually the result of excessive alcohol consumption, prolonged usage of anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen, injury, major surgery, and infections. Sometimes gastritis is also seen in children because of several reasons. If your child is diagnosed with gastritis, continue reading for all you need to know about the condition, its causes, and treatment.
What Is Gastritis?
The stomach has a protective lining of mucus called mucosa that shields the stomach lining from the harsh digestive acids secreted in the stomach. When this mucus layer gets damaged through a physical injury or bacterial infection, the lining can get inflamed, leading to the condition. Gastritis can start suddenly as acute gastritis or develop gradually over time as chronic gastritis.
Acute gastritis starts as a sudden inflammation of the stomach lining. It causes sharp and severe pain along with discomfort. However, the pain is short-lived and often comes as a short bust. Acute gastritis is caused by eating spicy foods, swallowing substances that irritate the stomach lining or objects such as batteries in children.
Chronic gastritis, on the other hand, starts slowly and builds over time. It can be caused by using certain medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, for a long time or the consumption of spicy foods for a long time. Chronic gastritis is more harmful as it slowly wears away the stomach lining and may lead to cancer if left untreated.
What Are the Causes of Gastritis in Kids?
The different causes for gastritis in kids are as follows:
1. Bacterial Infection
One of the most common causes of gastritis in children is infection by Helicobacter pylori. While most people’s bodies are adapted to fight the bacteria, it is thought that some people are more vulnerable to the bacteria.
Regular use of pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen can lead to acute gastritis. These medicines interfere with a key process that helps in the preservation of the stomach lining.
Severe stress caused by the onset of a disease or injury or any other reason can lead to acute gastritis in children.
4. Autoimmune Condition
Sometimes, the body’s immune cells attack the stomach lining in a condition called autoimmune gastritis. The effect is that the stomach’s protective barrier is worn off, leading to inflammation. The condition is also linked to the deficiency of vitamin B12. Autoimmune gastritis is commonly seen in people with other autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s disease.
5. Other Conditions
Gastritis can also be triggered by other medical conditions, including parasitic infection, Crohn’s disease, and HIV/AIDS.
Signs and Symptoms of Gastritis in Kids
Here are the gastritis symptoms in kids:
- Stomach upset and pain
- Belching and more hiccups than usual
- Abdominal bleeding
- A feeling of nausea accompanied by vomiting
- Feeling full makes them refuse food
- Burning sensation in the stomach
- Loss of appetite in general
- Abdominal bleeding leading to blood in vomit or stool
Complications of Gastritis in Kids
Chronic gastritis can be harmful for children in the long run as it increases the risk of other health conditions such as:
- Peptic ulcer disease, causing painful sores in the upper digestive tract, making it hard to eat anything spicy
- A small mass of cells in the stomach lining called gastric polyps
- Stomach tumors that can be benign or cancerous
- If the cause of the H. pylori bacteria or an autoimmune condition, it can cause atrophic gastritis. This condition destroys the inner lining of the stomach that secretes the digestive juices. In the long run, it elevates the risk of getting cancer and also lowers the stomach’s capacity to absorb certain vitamins.
How Is Gastritis Diagnosed?
If the child presents with symptoms of gastritis, the doctor will perform tests for diagnosis such as:
1. Upper Gastrointestinal Series or Barium Swallow
This procedure uses X-rays to image and observe the top portion of the digestive system. It can be used to check the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, which is the beginning of the small intestine. The person is made to swallow a metallic fluid that consists of barium. The barium forms a coating on the internal surfaces of the organs, making them highly visible on the X-ray.
2. Blood Tests
Blood tests can be used to determine various factors that can cause the disease. Doctors will look for the H. pylori bacteria that are present in the stomach. They also test for anemia and lack of certain vitamins that are a result of gastritis.
3. Stool Sample Test
Stool samples might be taken in the diagnostic process to look for stomach bacteria that can cause the disease. A small sample of the stool will be sent to the lab to look for bacteria and traces of blood that can indicate stomach lining bleeding.
4. Breath Test
If infection by H. pylori bacteria is suspected, a capsule with liquid containing urea will have to be swallowed. Since the bacteria act on urea to produce carbon dioxide, the breath after exhaling into a balloon will show elevated carbon dioxide levels.
5. Upper Endoscopy
Upper endoscopy is used to examine the inside of the stomach and intestines. The procedure involves sending a thin tube inside the stomach through the mouth to watch the insides in real-time. If required, they can also take a small sample of the tissue. The endoscopy gives clear images of any inflammation, bleeding, or accumulated mass of cells inside the stomach.
Treatment for Gastritis in Kids
Gastritis treatment depends on several factors such as the symptoms, severity, age, and other condition that might be present. In general, these treatment approaches can be expected:
- To reduce the stomach acid’s effect on the lining and give symptomatic relief, antacids would be prescribed to the children in the beginning. As the antacids neutralize the stomach acids, the lining will have time to heal.
- If any other condition causes gastritis, the condition will also be treated simultaneously.
- If H. pylori bacteria cause gastritis, then antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the bacteria. A proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication will also be given to reduce the stomach acids. Medicines for diarrhea will also be given to balance the gut and give symptomatic relief.
- The treatment will also involve diet restrictions and control to ensure foods that irritate the stomach lining is not consumed.
How to Prevent Gastritis in Kids?
Gastritis can be prevented by taking simple measures such as:
1. Controlled Diet
Avoid giving them foods that are known to irritate their stomach. It could include a range of spicy or acidic foods such as salsa, chilies, and citrus fruits. Other foods include red meats, dairy products, and high protein foods such as beans which take more time to digest. Encourage lighter meals and drinking water. Feed your child at least three hours before they go to sleep.
2. Precautions With Small Toy Parts
Buttons cells are often swallowed by young children causing a sudden onset of gastritis as the batteries irritate the stomach lining. Ensure they do not have access to small parts that can be easily swallowed.
3. Stress Management
If the child is stressed by other diseases or events daily, it is essential to help them relax. Stress increases acidity, which makes gastritis worse. Teach them yoga, mindfulness, and breathing techniques that help release stress.
4. Avoid Medications
Avoid medications that are known to cause stomach troubles.
Food to Avoid During Gastritis
Here are the food categories to avoid:
- Deep-fried foods
- Spicy foods
- Highly acidic foods
- Carbonated drinks and sodas
- Food that has caffeine in them
- Pickled foods
- Fatty foods
When to Call the Doctor?
Symptoms of acute gastritis arising from food consumption or sudden onset of stress can be managed at home with OTC medications and dietary changes. However, if the symptoms persist over a few days or worsen, it is time to call the doctor. Bloody stools or stools that look charred or tarry needs immediate medical attention.
Gastritis in children can be caused by a sudden onset (acute gastritis) or slowly over time (chronic gastritis). The condition causes pain and discomfort in children, but the general prognosis is good with immediate treatment.