Vomiting or spitting up in infants is usually caused by reflux because of the immature structures of the digestive system. This generally resolves over time as the infant's ability to process and digest food develops. However, if your baby continues to spit up, cries a lot or is not gaining weight, he may have gastritis. This can be a serious problem that leads to dehydration or other complications, so please share your concerns with your child's pediatrician.
Infants with gastritis are irritable and may cry inconsolably during and after meals. This is because of the pain associated with the irritation in their stomach. Some babies may draw the legs up toward the stomach. They will also be poor feeders and not gain sufficient weight. Some babies will do well with feedings, but regurgitate much of what they ate. These babies will also gain weight slowly. After feedings, you may notice blood mixed in their spit up.
Gastritis is caused by irritation of the stomach lining. This is either due to excess production of stomach acid or inadequate mucus that protects the stomach from the acid that aids in digestion. An infection with the bacteria H. pylori can attacks the protective mucus layer. Babies who were born premature, are on a breathing machine and being cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit may develop stress-induced gastritis. Infants being treated with non-steroidal anti inflammatory medications and steroids are also prone to gastritis because these medications block the production of productive stomach mucus.
If a viral infection is the cause for gastritis, it will cause inflammation in the lining of the stomach as well as the intestines. Affected children will have vomiting, watery diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. Rotavirus is the most common cause in infants and children younger than 5. Adenovirus, astrovirus and norovirus can also be the cause, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
H. pylori gastritis is treated with antibiotics and antacid medications, which work to protect the layer of mucus in your baby’s stomach and decrease the amount of gastric acid production. Stress gastritis is also treated with antacid medications. If your baby’s gastritis is caused by medications, your pediatrician may stop or change medications. Parents should never do so without consulting a doctor. Viral illnesses simply have to run their course.
If your child has gastritis, it is crucial to keep the child hydrated. Special drinks for children that contain balanced electrolytes are commercially available. Viruses that cause gastritis are very contagious, so frequent hand washing and disinfecting counter tops and changing surfaces will help prevent infecting other family members. Call your pediatrician immediately if your child has sharp pains, blood in the stool or bloody vomit, advises Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
- Pediatric Research; Gastritis and Duodenitis in Infants with Vomiting; April 1996
- Medscape Reference; Pediatric Gastrointestinal Bleeding; March 2011.
- John Hopkins Children’s Center: Helicobacter Pylori Gastritis
- Centers for Disease Control; Norovirus; February 2011
- Evidence Based Medicine: An Evidence Based, Systematic Approach to Acute, Unexplained Excessive Crying in Infants: Gastrointestinal Conditions