The Ups and Downs of Acid Reflux In Babies and Children
by: Michael Kabel
Though it's often the cause of severe alarm in parents who worry their child may suffer from a serious stomach ailment, in fact some acid reflux is normal before a child's first birthday. As the baby's digestive tract adjusts to its new diet and to all the changes that growing impels upon it, some adjustments are not just inevitable – they're necessary.
Some reflux is common.
Reflux is very common among infants, with some estimates showing up to thirty five percent of all babies born having one or more symptoms. Fortunately, most children outgrow it very quickly.
Babies with reflux often spit up their food more forcefully than children who do not. Children sometimes cry, act up, have sleeping, or not grow as expected.
The causes of reflux
The condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflux, or acid reflux, occurs when the part of the digestive tract that connects the esophagus to the stomach either fails to close or spontaneously opens. The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) allows stomach acids and juices to wash back up into the esophagus, along with stomach contents. This triggers the burning, gassy sensation in adults known as heartburn.
For older children, the discomfort can take several other forms. Typical symptoms in children under twelve include heartburn, a sour taste in the mouth, or a nagging persistent cough.
When does reflux become a problem?
Diagnosing chronic acid reflux, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), is sometimes difficult for physicians because children may have all the symptoms associated with the condition or only a few – or only one. Distinguishing the disease from normal indigestion becomes that much trickier.
If left untreated in adults, GERD can cause bleeding ulcers in the esophagus and stomach, and even longterm tissue damage. But reversing and treating its symptoms is comparatively easy in children.
Treating the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD
Parents who are concerned their child may have GERD should closely monitor their eating and digestive habits. Experts recommend helping the child switch to a healthier diet, with less fried or fatty foods, may present one solution.
Children with reflux or GERD should also not eat for at least three hours before bedtime, to give the stomach time to digest its contents. In addition, foods high in acids such and Vitamin C should be avoided, as should milk or milk-based products which contain calcium and fatty acids. Foods high in sugar and caffeine as well as chocolate and peppermints should likewise be avoided.
Parents of babies with reflux can also try burping them several times while eating and keeping the baby in an upright position for thirty minutes after meals.
Many adults find relief from GERD's symptoms by raising the head of their bed six inches using wooden blocks. Others sleep on the left side of their body in order to reduce symptoms. Either approach may also apply to children, so long as all realistic safety precautions are taken.
There are many over the counter medications used to treat acid reflux symptoms, but parents should consult with a doctor before giving children anything stronger than normal antacids. Doctors may be able to prescribe a prescription drug or treatment, including H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitor drugs that will likely resolve many symptoms.