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What Is the Treatment for Eosinophilic Esophagitis in Children?

By S. Berger
Updated May 17, 2024
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Eosinophilic esophagitis is a medical condition that has only recently been defined by medical professionals. Immune cells called eosinophils accumulate in the esophagus and become inflamed in this disorder, which can be caused by allergies or certain types of food. Children are just as susceptible to this problem as adults are, but may show different symptoms and require novel treatments. Heartburn, stomach discomfort, a failure to grow properly, and sleeping problems may all indicate a case of eosinophilic esophagitis in children. These symptoms are quite different from the way that this condition presents itself in adults, as older individuals usually only show dysphagia, or trouble swallowing.

Treatments for eosinophilic esophagitis in children are varied, and depend largely on the individual case. Sometimes, monitoring and changing a child's diet may be sufficient to relieve symptoms. Dietary modification can help children to avoid foods that they may be allergic to, or that may be triggering reactions. The types of food that should be avoided can often be determined through allergy tests like skin prick or skin patch testing. These tests involve brief surface exposure to various compounds in order to discover the source of the allergies.

These tests may not be able to determine the source of eosinophilic esophagitis in children for all cases, however. Occasionally, individuals may have to try avoiding specific foods to discover which diet can lead to a remission, or disappearance of symptoms. Foods that may trigger this medical condition can include milk, wheat, beef, chicken, and potatoes. Extreme cases of eosinophilic esophagitis in children may require an elemental diet, which is a liquid mixture of nutrients delivered through a tube, to relieve this condition. Dietary restrictions, especially more stringent ones, can be difficult to follow, however, and some individuals may see their symptoms return after disregarding them.

Restrictions on foods are a preferred treatment for eosinophilic esophagitis in children due to the lack of side effects. Medications can sometimes be used to treat severe forms of this condition, but they carry risks of adverse effects. Steroids are a potential drug therapy for this condition, because they are able to dampen the immune response that leads to inflammation. Among youths that are still growing, however, these steroids can sometimes cause a slower rate of growth. Consequently, these drugs are avoided as a therapy in children whenever possible, with dietary treatments being the preferred way to control symptoms.

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