GERD and Acid Reflux in Infants and Children

GERD and Acid Reflux in Infants and Children Introduction

Most infants occasionally spit up throughout the day. However, when it causes other problems or is associated with other symptoms it may be due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can also occur in older children.

What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Infants and Children?

The most common symptoms of reflux in kids are:

Many other symptoms are sometimes blamed on gastroesophageal reflux, but much of the time, it isn't clear if reflux actually causes them. Other possibilities in young children and infants include:

What Causes GERD and Acid Reflux in Infants and Children?

Like in adults with the condition, gastroesophageal reflux is the upward movement of stomach contents into the esophagus and sometimes into or out of the mouth.

Usually, infants with the condition are otherwise healthy, but some babies have other problems affecting their nerves, brain, or muscles. According to the National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse, a child's immature digestive system is usually to blame. They add that most infants grow out of GERD by the time they are 1 year old.

In older children, the causes of GERD are also different than what is seen in infants and adults. Anything that causes the muscular valve between the stomach and esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter or LES) to relax, or anything that increases the pressure below the LES, can cause GERD. Such things include obesity, overeating, constipation, and certain foods, beverages, and medications.

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GERD Symptoms in Infants

What are the symptoms of GERD in infants?

GERD is common in healthy infants. More than half of all babies experience reflux in the first 3 months of life, but most stop spitting up between the ages of 12 to 24 months. Only a small number of infants have severe symptoms. An infant with GERD may experience:

  • spitting up
  • vomiting
  • coughing
  • irritability
  • poor feeding
  • blood in the stools

In a small number of babies, GERD results in symptoms that cause concern. These symptoms include:

  • poor growth due to an inability to hold down enough food
  • irritability or refusing to feed due to pain
  • blood loss from acid burning the esophagus
  • breathing problems

These problems can be caused by disorders other than GERD. Your health care provider will need to determine whether GERD is the cause of your child's symptoms. SOURCE: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants.


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