Gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD, is a GI health condition occurring in people of all ages, including infants and children. Children often develop the disease when lower esophageal sphincter relaxes and fails to keep contents within the stomach. It may be necessary to consult with a pediatric gastroenterologist if a child experiences persistent reflux that interferes with growth, feeding or breathing. After discussing a child’s symptoms and conducting a series of diagnostic tests, such as an endoscopy, the physician can make a diagnosis and develop a plan for treating and managing the condition.
Did you know…
that gastroesophageal reflux is relatively common becomes increasingly prevalent in children ages 2 to 18 year after year? Many cases resolve on their own, but as many as 1 in 4 children experience the symptoms of GERD on a chronic basis. If not treated, this disease can lead to serious complications over time, including hoarseness, chest congestion, and esophagitis.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes GERD in children?
Pediatric gastroesophageal reflux disease may be the result of one of many different problems. In some children, reflux is triggered by certain foods, such as carbonated drinks and foods that are highly acidic or high in fat content. For others, GERD may be a problem related to an anatomical abnormality, an allergy or some other underlying condition.
What are the symptoms of gastrointestinal reflux disease in children?
A child with GERD will often experience regurgitation after consuming a meal and sometimes while still feeding. The symptoms are different in infants than they are in older children, as babies with the condition tend to cough, spit up excessively, vomit and experience irritability. In older children, symptoms may also include frequent swallowing and discomfort in the upper digestive tract (heartburn).
What are the treatments for pediatric GERD?
Treatments vary from child to child depending on the cause and severity of the condition, as well as the child’s age. For example, most babies naturally outgrow their reflux between the ages of one and two years old. Elevating the head of a child’s bed and avoiding feeding in the two hours before bed can help improve symptoms. Bottle-infants may benefit from the addition of rice cereal, changes to the size of the bottle nipple, or smaller but more frequent feedings.
When a child experiences persistent GERD that does not respond to lifestyle and dietary modifications, medical intervention may be necessary. This may include the use of certain medications, such as H2 receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors. If your child is exhibiting symptoms of GERD, talk to your pediatrician about a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist.