How Do You Know If Your Child Has GERD?

    How Do You Know If Your Child Has GERD?

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive condition in infants; however, it can also occur in kids and adults. How do you know if your child has GERD? Find out here.

    GERD, Defined

    “Gastro” refers to the stomach, while “esophageal” points to the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Normally, once the food reaches the stomach, it stays there and is eventually processed in the intestines.

    However, the food, along with the stomach acid, flows back up (reflux) to the esophagus for some people.

    GERD usually happens when there’s a problem in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle that opens to let the food into the stomach and closes once the food is there. When LES relaxes for too long or too often, the food and acid flow back (regurgitate).

    GERD: All You Need to Know

    How Do You Know If Your Child Has GERD?

    As mentioned earlier, GERD is common in babies as their LES is still weak and developing. This is why their burps often come with food and fluid. The good news is that acid reflux in infants usually goes away on its own in their 12th to 14th month.

    Here’s who to know if your child has GERD:

    Their acid reflux persists

    For babies, acid reflux that persists beyond the 12th to 14th month may be indicative of GERD. The condition may also be present if their acid reflux significantly prevents them from feeding.

    Heartburn

    If your little one has GERD, he or she may complain of heartburn, a somewhat burning sensation in their chest. This typically happens because the esophagus is not meant for acidic content; hence it hurts when the food and acid regurgitates.

    Also, watch for abdominal pain; kids with GERD complain about it, too.

    Oral problems

    Children with GERD may start exhibiting oral issues like bad breath (even if they regularly brush their teeth) and wearing away of teeth. Kids may also come to you complaining of a sour taste in their mouth.

    Burping

    How do you know if your child has GERD? One way is to observe them when they burp.

    GERD makes kids burp often, and in most cases, they have “wet burps” or belching that comes with some acidic fluid. They might also have wet hiccups (sinok).

    Additionally, watch out for vomiting, especially after meals.

    how do you know if your child has gerd

    Mealtime problems

    Another sign to watch out for is their behavior during mealtime. Children with GERD understand the pattern of their symptoms: they happen after eating.

    For this reason, babies may have intense or inconsolable crying after feeding. Younger kids may outright refuse to eat or eat very little. Watch out for their refusal to eat because it may lead to failure to gain weight.

    Eating Disorders in Children: What Parents Need To Know

    Coughing fits

    Is your child experiencing coughing fits, especially at night? It might be due to the acid reflux getting into their windpipe or lungs. Sometimes, you may also notice that they appear to be choking.

    When to Seek Medical Help

    When unmanaged, GERD may lead to long-term complications like breathing problems and difficulty swallowing due to esophageal injury. For this reason, bring your child to the doctor if you notice the signs and symptoms of GERD.

    Home Remedies

    Once you suspect that your child has GERD, you might ask, what can I give my child for acid reflux?

    The answer is: don’t give anything to your little one unless you have a doctor’s approval.

    The doctor may recommend “thickening” the breastmilk or formula for babies by adding a tablespoon of oat cereal. Remember to keep them upright during feeding and for about half an hour after.

    For older children, consider the following measures:

    • Try to limit their intake of foods that might affect the muscle tone of LES. Examples of such foods are chocolate and fatty foods.
    • Watch out for foods that increase acid production, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and tomato sauces.
    • Small, frequent meals may be best for children with GERD.
    • Encourage them to eat dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime.

    And, of course, keeping them upright for at least 30 minutes after meals will also help.

    Learn more about digestive problems in children here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Sources

    Pediatric Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
    https://childrensnational.org/visit/conditions-and-treatments/stomach-digestion-gi/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd
    Accessed February 19, 2021

    Gastroesophageal Reflux
    https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/gerd-reflux.html
    Accessed February 19, 2021

    GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) in Children
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/gerd-gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-in-children
    Accessed February 19, 2021

    Reflux in Children
    https://medlineplus.gov/refluxinchildren.html
    Accessed February 19, 2021

    Reflux in Infants
    https://medlineplus.gov/refluxininfants.html
    Accessed February 19, 2021

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    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 30, 2021
    Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD