What is gerd in children?

Gastroesophageal reflux in children: Overview

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when stomach acids back up into the esophagus. This is the tube that takes food from the throat to the stomach. Reflux can cause pain and swelling in the esophagus.

Reflux can happen when the area between the lower end of the esophagus and the stomach does not close tightly. In babies, it usually happens because their digestive tracts are still growing. In older children, there may be other causes.

Reflux can cause babies to vomit, cry, and act fussy. They may have trouble breastfeeding or taking a bottle. Most of the time, reflux is not a sign of a serious problem. It often goes away by the end of a baby's first year.

Older children sometimes have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). They may have the same symptoms as adults. They may cough a lot. And they may have a burning feeling in the chest and throat. Symptoms may go away with care at home or medicines.

Gastroesophageal reflux in babies

Gastroesophageal reflux is a backflow (reflux or regurgitation) of food and stomach acid into the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. When reflux irritates the lining of the esophagus and causes burning pain, difficulty eating, weight loss, or other problems, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Most babies have reflux. Babies with reflux may spit up. And some healthy babies may spit up frequently.

Babies who have GERD may cry because of the burning pain. Sometimes GERD causes breathing problems, if the baby breathes stomach contents into the lungs.

What are the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux in babies and children?

It is common for babies to spit up (have reflux) after they eat. Babies with severe gastroesophageal reflux may cry, act fussy, or have trouble eating. They may not sleep well or grow as expected.

An older child or teen may have the same symptoms as an adult. He or she may cough a lot and have a burning feeling in the chest and throat (heartburn). He or she may have a sour or bitter taste in the mouth.

If stomach acid goes up to the throat or into the airways, a child may get hoarse or have a lasting cough. Reflux can also cause pneumonia or wheezing, and it may hurt to swallow.

How is gastroesophageal reflux treated in children?

For older children and teens, home treatments can help. If your child is older than 12 months, try raising the head of their bed. Have them eat frequent but smaller meals. If these steps don't work, your doctor may suggest medicine, including antacids and acid reducers. Children with reflux rarely need surgery.

How is gastroesophageal reflux diagnosed in babies and children?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about symptoms. A healthy and growing baby may not need any tests. For teens with symptoms, the doctor may try medicines before doing tests. If a baby is not growing as expected or treatment doesn't help a teen, the doctor may want to do tests.

How can you care for your child's gastroesophageal reflux?

Try raising the head of your child's bed a little bit if they are older than 12 months. Have them eat frequent but smaller meals, with the last meal at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Limit foods that make the reflux worse. Try antacids for children. Your doctor may suggest over-the-counter acid reducers.

What causes gastroesophageal reflux in babies and children?

Gastroesophageal reflux happens because the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach is weak. The ring of muscle may not close tightly, and stomach contents can flow back up into the esophagus. In babies, this problem happens because the digestive tract is still growing. Reflux usually goes away as a baby matures.

What is gastroesophageal reflux in babies and children?

Gastroesophageal reflux happens when food and stomach acid flow from the stomach back into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Reflux is common in babies and children. It is usually not a serious problem. Most babies stop having reflux around 1 year of age.

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