How to spot and treat a child’s hernia?

June 29, 2018
How to spot and treat a child hernia

A hernia occurs when a part of an organ or tissue in the body (like the loop of an intestine), pushes through an opening or weak spot in a muscle wall. This protrusion looks like a bulge or a lump.

It might sound surprising, but hernias are fairly common in children. In fact, hernia repair is one of the most common surgeries performed on children. The two types that most commonly affect children are inguinal, which occurs in the groin area and umbilical, which occurs around the navel.

Types of hernias and their symptoms

Inguinal hernia

This type is more likely to appear in infants, more commonly seen in premature boys and can be present on either a single side or both sides of the groin. It can be identified as an enlarged scrotum. In premature girls, an inguinal hernia occurs around the vagina in the large folds of the skin.


  • Reducible hernia – You might be able to see a prominent bulge when a child is crying, coughing or straining as a hernia might go away when the child is calm. These types are not immediately harmful and are called reducible. The lump is usually temporary and disappears once the pressure is released.


  • Incarcerated hernia – Sometimes, even when the child is relaxed, the lump does not go away and becomes tough and painful to the touch. This could result in the child vomiting and feeling discomfort. An incarcerated hernia should be treated by the doctor immediately.
  • Strangulated hernia – An incarcerated hernia, if not operated upon, can pose the danger of strangulation. The bulge at this time looks swollen, red, inflamed and is extremely painful. A strangulated hernia can be fatal and should be treated at all costs. It requires urgent professional attention.



Hernia Treatment

Surgery is done to prevent an inguinal hernia from becoming strangulated. During the surgery, the herniated tissue is put back where it belongs and the opening or weakness in the muscle is closed or repaired. This surgery is performed on children of all ages, even on premature babies. The period of recuperation for kids is short. Most children can resume normal activities in about 7 days after the surgery. They should avoid any strenuous activity like riding the bicycle or climbing trees. If you notice any of the following signs, contact your doctor immediately:

  • A fever of 101 or higher
  • A red incision
  • Increasing pain and tenderness around the incision
  • Any discharge coming from the incision

Umblical hernia

It is one of the most common pediatric surgical conditions which affect around 1 in 5 children. During pregnancy, the umbilical cord is connected to the baby’s abdominal muscles through a small hole. It usually closes once the child is born, if it doesn’t, the gap that’s left is called an umbilical hernia. This is clearly visible when the child cries, coughs or puts pressure on his or her abdomen.

Keep a close eye on the hernia, as sometimes the intestine can get trapped in the hole and cannot go back in. If it becomes incarcerated, the area around the belly button will become painful, swollen and discoloured. This will need immediate medical attention.


Umbilical hernias usually don’t need any treatment and disappear by the age of 4 or 5. If the hole is large, the doctor will recommend surgery before the child turns 4 or 5. The child will recover in a few days and should avoid swimming and other sports for the next few days. You must call your doctor if you notice the following after surgery:

  • A high fever
  • Redness, swelling or pain
  • Discharge near the incision

If ignored, a hernia can lead to several long-term complications that may dent the healthy development of a child. However, it only takes a single surgery to rectify this condition and help the child lead a happy, healthy and normal life!

Consult with experienced specialists at Apollo Spectra Hospitals to get a better understanding of the condition and the surgery. Book an appointment today.