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Hiatal Hernia in Children


A hiatal hernia

is a condition that causes part of your child's stomach to bulge through the hiatus (small opening) in his or her diaphragm. This part of the stomach may move up and down, or it may get trapped above the diaphragm. Your child may have been born with a large hiatus or with the hiatal hernia.

Hiatal Hernia

Common symptoms include the following:

The most common symptom is heartburn. This usually occurs after meals. Your child may not have any signs or symptoms, or he or she may have any of the following:

  • Abdominal pain, especially in the area just above your child's navel
  • Frequent burping or hiccups
  • Vomiting or spitting up
  • Coughing or hoarseness
  • Not eating well because of fullness or bloating
  • Poor growth
  • Dark stools
  • Breathing problems such as wheezing
  • Frequent lung infections such as pneumonia

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has severe chest pain and sudden trouble breathing.

Call your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has severe abdominal pain.
  • Your child's bowel movements are black or bloody.
  • Your child's vomit looks like coffee grounds or has blood in it.
  • Your child's symptoms are getting worse.
  • Your child has nausea, and he or she is vomiting.
  • Your child is losing weight.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for a hiatal hernia

may not be needed. Your child's hiatal hernia may go away on its own if it is diagnosed during infancy. He or she may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to relieve heartburn symptoms. These medicines help to decrease or block stomach acid.
  • Surgery may be done when medicines cannot control your child's symptoms, or other problems are present. Your child's healthcare provider may also suggest surgery depending on the type of hernia your child has. Your healthcare provider can put your child's stomach back into its normal location. He or she may make the hiatus (hole) smaller and anchor your child's stomach in his or her abdomen. Fundoplication is a surgery that wraps the upper part of your child's stomach around the esophageal sphincter to strengthen it.

Care for your child:

The following nutrition and lifestyle changes may be recommended to relieve symptoms of heartburn.

  • Avoid giving your child foods that make his or her symptoms worse. These may include spicy foods, fruit juices, caffeine, chocolate, and mint.
  • Give your child several small meals during the day. Small meals give his or her stomach less food to digest.
  • Your child should not lie down or bend forward after he or she eats. Do not allow your child to eat meals 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. This will decrease his or her risk for reflux.
  • Your child should be at a healthy weight. If your child is overweight, weight loss may help relieve his or her symptoms.
  • Have your child sleep with his or her head elevated at least 6 inches. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to safely do this.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Hiatal Hernia in Children (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.