What is eosinophilic esophagitis?

Eosinophilic esophagitis is an allergic reaction that causes swelling and damage to the esophagus. It’s caused when eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, attach to the inner lining of the esophagus. This can make it difficult to swallow and increases the chance that food will get stuck. It’s usually caused by a food allergy.


The symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis don’t happen right away. It can take hours or days for the allergic reaction to appear. This means it’s often hard to know which food caused the reaction.

Common symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis include:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • food getting stuck in the throat
  • vomiting
  • chest pain
  • refusing to eat (especially in toddlers)
  • increased sensitivity to certain types of food
  • poor weight gain


Eosinophilic esophagitis is usually diagnosed using endoscopy. During this procedure the doctor places a thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera down your child’s esophagus to look for inflammation and a high number of eosinophils.

Your child may also have allergy testing to determine which foods he or she may be allergic to.


In most cases, eosinophilic esophagitis is treated with medication to reduce inflammation and the number of eosinophils in the esophagus. Your child’s doctor will also create a diet plan restricting specific foods, based on the results of allergy tests.

Learn more about Pediatric Gastroenterology services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.

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