GERD in Babies


At one time or another, numerous adults have had heartburn (an uncomfortable feeling in the chest) after eating a huge meal or hot foods.

When these symptoms happen frequently or aren’t tied to certain active ingredients, they may be due to gastroesophageal reflux (GER)– likewise called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

But GERD isn’t just an issue for adults– kids can have it, too, even babies. In babies, it can cause vomiting and fussiness after feeding. And in older childrenses and teens, GERD can lead to heartburn, and stomach and chest discomfort.

A lot of children outgrow GERD in time but some will need medical treatment.

About GERD

The burping, heartburn, and spitting up associated with GERD are the result of acidic stomach contents moving backwards into the esophagus (this is called reflux). This can happen since the muscle that connects the esophagus to the stomach (the esophageal sphincter) kicks back at the wrong time or does not appropriately close.

Many individuals have reflux frequently and it’s not generally a cause for issue. But with GERD, reflux happens regularly and causes obvious discomfort. After almost all meals, GERD causes heartburn, likewise called acid indigestion, which seems like a burning sensation in the chest, neck, and throat.

gerd in baby symptoms

In infants with GERD, breast milk or formula frequently refluxes into the esophagus, and sometimes from the mouth. In some cases babies regurgitate powerfully or have “wet burps.” Many children outgrow GERD in between the time they are 1 or 2 years old.

But in some cases, GERD symptoms last. Children with developmental or neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy, are more at risk for GERD and can have more severe, long lasting symptoms.

Symptoms of GERD in Babies

Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD in kids and teens. It can last up to 2 hours and has the tendency to be even worse after meals. In babies and kids, GERD can result in problems during and after feeding, consisting of:

  • frequent regurgitation or vomiting, specifically after meals
  • choking or wheezing (if the contents of the reflux get into the windpipe and lungs).
  • wet burps or damp hiccups.
  • spitting up that continues beyond a child’s first birthday (when it picks up the majority of children).
  • irritation or heartbroken crying after eating.
  • choosing not to eat or eating just small amounts.
  • failure to gain weight.

A few of these symptoms might worsen if a baby lies down or is put on in a car seat after a meal.

Complications of GERD

Some children establish complications from GERD. The continuous reflux of stomach acid can cause:.

  • breathing problems (if the stomach contents enter the trachea, lungs, or nose).
  • soreness and inflammation in the esophagus, a condition called esophagitis.
  • bleeding in the esophagus.
  • scar tissue in the esophagus, which can make swallowing hard.

Since these complications can make eating painful, GERD can hinder appropriate nutrition. So if your child isn’t putting on weight as expected or is reducing weight, it’s crucial to talk with your doctor.

Diagnosing GERD

In older children, physicians normally identify GERD by doing a physical examination and hearing about the symptoms. Attempt to keep track of the foods that appear to induce symptoms in your child– this details can help the doctor determine what’s causing the problem.

In younger children and infants, medical professionals may run these tests to identify GERD or dismiss other problems:.

  • Barium swallow. This is a special X-ray that can show the refluxing of liquid into the esophagus, any irritation in the esophagus, and irregularities in the upper digestive tract. For the test, your child needs to swallow a small amount of a milky liquid (barium). This liquid appears on the X-ray and shows the swallowing procedure.
  • 24-hour impedance-probe study. This is thought about the most accurate way to discover reflux and the number of reflux episodes. A thin, flexible tube is positioned through the nose into the esophagus. The tip rests just above the esophageal sphincter to keep track of the acid levels in the esophagus and to discover any reflux.
  • Milk scans. This series of X-ray scans tracks a special liquid as a child swallows it. The scans can show whether the stomach is slow to empty liquids and whether the refluxed liquid is being inhaled into the lungs.
  • Upper endoscopy. In this test, doctors straight take a look at the esophagus, stomach, and a portion of the small intestinal tracts using a tiny fiber-optic camera. During the procedure, physicians likewise might biopsy (take a small sample of) the lining of the esophagus to dismiss other problems and see whether GERD is triggering other complications.

Treating GERD in Babies

Treatment for GERD depends upon the type and seriousness of the symptoms.

In infants, medical professionals in some cases suggest thickening the formula or breast milk with as much as 1 tablespoon of oat cereal to reduce reflux. Making certain the baby is in a vertical position (seated or held upright) during feedings can likewise help.

Older children often get relief by avoiding foods and drinks that seem to set off GERD symptoms, consisting of:

  • citrus fruits.
  • chocolate.
  • food and beverages with caffeine.
  • fatty and fried foods.
  • garlic and onions.
  • hot foods.
  • tomato-based foods and sauces.
  • peppermint.

Medical professionals may suggest raising the head of a child’s bed 6 to 8 inches to minimize reflux that takes place at night. They also may try to address other conditions that can contribute to GERD symptoms, consisting of weight problems and particular medications– and in teens, cigarette smoking and alcohol use.

If these measures don’t help relieve the symptoms, the doctor may likewise recommend medication, such as H2 blockers, which can help obstruct the production of stomach acid, or proton pump inhibitors, which reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces.

Medications called prokinetics are sometimes used to reduce the number of reflux episodes by helping the lower esophageal sphincter muscle work much better and the stomach empty quicker.

In unusual cases, when medical treatment alone does not help and a child is failing to grow or establishes other complications, a surgery called fundoplication may be a choice, according to This involves developing a valve at the top of the stomach by covering a portion of the stomach around the esophagus.

When to Call the Doctor

If your child has GERD symptoms, talk with your doctor. With proper diagnosis and treatment, children can get relief and avoid longer-term illness.


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