Overview of Acid Reflux Disease in Children

Overview of Acid Reflux Disease in Children

acid reflux in infants

Acid reflux in infants

Studies show that gastroesophagel reflux disease or GERD for short is normal to infants and children as well as in adults. It is estimated that approximately 35% and upward of babies born in the US show signs of acid reflux in infants in the first few months after they are born.

Children are vulnerable to GERD because of their immature digestive system. The truth is that the majority of infants grow out of GERD once they reach the age of one year old but a large number of them will not outgrow the condition. As acid reflux disease is a chronic condition any children with the symptoms of GERD should be referred to their doctor to diagnose treatment.

GERD Symptoms

GERD symptoms are difficult to detect in small children because it is normal for babies to spit up and burp after meals. However symptoms of GERD can vary from being the same as adults to repeated vomiting, effortless spitting up, coughing and other breathing problems. Also common are failure to gain adequate weight, repeated crying, not taking their food and bad breath. Acid reflux symptoms are not uniform and children may have many symptoms or just a few.

An acid reflux baby with GERD symptoms need to be watched to make sure they do not develop complications. While most acid infant reflux will be gone in a few months some keep their symptoms well into their teen years and beyond. If the doctor is making a diagnosis he may also see symptoms like asthma, sinus or ear infection, apnea and esophagitis. There are many conditions that point to a diagnosis of acid reflux and the doctor may be able start treatment such as medication without having to do any tests.

Further diagnosis

However if the child does not respond to acid reflux medication further tests may be required. There are several tests which can be taken to confirm acid reflux as well as tests that can rule it out as certain other conditions can look like GERD. The usual tests are

  • Upper GI
  • PH probe
  • Endoscopy
  • Milk scan.


The doctor can suggested some home care techniques and diet modifications to help avoid acid reflux or reduce symptoms. One example of these is burping the infant frequently during feeding, or propping the infant in an erect position for 30 minutes after feeding. Breast feeding is best for babies with acid reflux, but liquids tend to reflux more than solids. Offer new foods cautiously. Some green vegetables and fruits can contribute to acid reflux. You should also try to establish proper chewing and swallowing skills. Feeding small amounts slowly and often will also help. Another tip is elevating the head of the babies crib but you should seek a doctor’s advice before doing this.

For a child aged three and over, doctors suggested keeping them off drinks that includes caffeine like soft drinks, carbonated drinks, tea and coffee. Also remove the temptation of spicy foods, peppermint, high acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes and try to cut out chocolate, and fried and fatty foods. Ideally establishing a healthy eating habit can really decrease the acid reflux in children.

It is also suggested that children should eat smaller meals before sleeping, and if possible, do not allow them to eat two to three hours before bedtime. Elevate the head of their bed to at least 30 degrees. Or use a wedge pillow.

Further treatments include prescription medicine from the doctor including the use of H2 blockers; and proton plump inhibitors, both can be used in treating acid reflux in children.


However, if these treatments fail to stop the symptoms, or there are other medical complications other acid reflux treatment may be needed. Esophageal reflux surgery for children may be used if treatments with acid reflux medicine were unsuccessful. The most common procedure is called fundoplication or anti-reflux surgery. The opening in which the esophagus passes to the diaphragm is tightened and if a Hiatus Hernia is also present this is also deal with during the procedure. The newest way to perform this surgery is called laparoscopy and is very effective at relieving acid reflux disease symptoms and any GERD complications.

Management of GERD.

Most children will outgrow acid reflux but if it continues management of the condition is invaluable. How it needs to be managed depends on how often and how severe the GERD symptoms are. Some lifestyle changes may be necessary but for infrequent heartburn symptoms after a diet change you may only need to take over the counter h2 antagonist drugs like Zantac or Tagamet. You can also take a foam barrier with this.

If the H2 antagonist drugs and lifestyle changes do not stop the symptoms of heartburn then the doctor needs t prescribe stronger acid reflux medications. These usually come in the form of a type of drug called a proton pump inhibitor or PPI, s for short. This type of medicine is very effective and should be all most people will require for acid reflux in infants.