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Hernia is a very common condition which sometimes freaks people out. This article will cover the types, presentation, complications and treatment options of the hernia in children.

Hernia is formed when the contents of the abdomen protrude through a weak area in the abdominal wall. A hernia consists of a sac and this sac has its contents and coverings. The contents of a hernia are usually the loops of small intestine.

Common Types Of Hernia In Children

The type of hernia is determined by examining where the abdominal contents find a weak spot in the abdominal wall. 

The most common types of hernia in children are:

  • Inguinal Hernia: The bulging of abdominal contents into the groin region or scrotal sac is called inguinal hernia. It travels from the abdomen towards the scrotum through a path called inguinal canal. Inguinal hernia is a very common condition; every five out of 100 babies have inguinal hernia.
  • Umbilical Hernia: Umbilical herbia refers to the protrusion of bowel loops through the navel. It occurs a few weeks after birth and can be seen in the naval area.
  • Other less common types include para-umbilical hernia, epigastric hernia and incisional hernia, depending upon the location.

Signs And Symptoms Of Hernia In Children

Hernia presents with a soft reducible swelling. This swelling can be seen in the groin or scrotum in case of inguinal hernia and in the navel in case of umbilical hernia. A peculiar feature of this swelling is that it is reducible when pressed manually with a hand, and comes out again if the hand is removed. The swelling can be both felt and seen. This swelling becomes more prominent when the child cries, sneezes, coughs or defecates. All these things increase pressure inside the abdomen. The swelling is less prominent when the child is sleeping or relaxed.

Hernia is usually painless, but if it presents with pain, you should immediately consult a doctor. Since we are talking about children, mothers tend to play a greater role in the diagnosis. Mothers should carefully observe the children and look for any swelling coming out of these sites, especially the swelling is accompanied by pain. 

Complications Of Hernia

When the neck of a hernia is trapped in its “hole” and the blood supply of the sac is compromised, it is called a strangulated hernia. The ischemia of the sac causes tremendous pain, accompanied by nausea, vomiting and absent bowel movements. The site of hernia becomes tender and discolored. If this continues for four or five hours, gangrene may occur. This is considered a surgical emergency and you should take your child to the nearest emergency room. 

The doctor will examine the hernia and decide on appropriate management.  Almost all strangulated hernias are repaired surgically.

Another complication of hernia is obstructed or irreducible hernia. This means that the sac is stuck and doesn't return back to the abdomen either, due to an adhesion between the sac and its contents or overcrowding of the contents. This can lead to strangulated hernia, therefore you should visit a doctor immediately.

All these complications should be taken seriously and everyone should know about the danger signs in hernia. Immediate medical help should be sought if you suspect a complication.                 
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