Many children with GERD have a “food-related” type of reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus.
GERD is linked to acid production in the stomach. It’s often called heartburn because some people think it’s the result of a heart attack or other heart condition.
Food-related GERD is the most common type of GERD. It occurs when food or liquid moves up into the esophagus. This causes the esophagus to produce a lot of acid and can cause symptoms of heartburn.
Food-related GERD doesn’t usually cause long-term problems. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem.
When to see your doctor?
Your child should see a doctor if they have:
- Acid reflux that lasts after eating
- Chest pain or discomfort that lasts for more than a few minutes
- Vomiting after eating
Your child should see a doctor if they have a sore throat or hoarseness that doesn’t go away after a week.
They should also see a doctor if they have frequent heartburn (more than once a week) and:
- The acid reflux doesn’t go away after a few days
- The acid reflux is severe
- They have a cough or other respiratory symptoms
- They have a family history of GERD
What are the treatment options for GERD?
Treatment for GERD depends on the type of GERD your child has.
Your child may be given a proton pump inhibitor to reduce the amount of acid in their stomach. These medications are given by mouth or through an IV.
Some children also need a device called a reflux barrier device. This is a small, flexible ring that fits into the esophagus. It’s put over the lower part of the esophagus to keep acid from flowing back up into the esophagus.
If medical treatment doesn’t work, surgery may be an option. Your child may need surgery to correct an esophagus problem that’s causing GERD.
Esophagus surgery involves:
- Making a cut in the lower part of the esophagus, which is between the chest and the stomach.
- Closing the cut, which is called an anastomosis.
- Putting a ring into the cut. This is called a band.
Your child may need a procedure called fundoplication. This is the most common surgical treatment for GERD. Your child will have surgery to strengthen the lower part of the esophagus. This part of the esophagus is called the cardiac sphincter.
The surgery is done under general anesthesia. The esophagus is closed with stitches. The ring is put over the lower part of the esophagus to strengthen it.
During the surgery, your child may also have one or more of the following procedures:
- A fundoplication. This procedure closes a ring of muscle around the lower esophagus to help prevent acid from flowing back up into the esophagus.
- A stapling procedure. This is done to close the esophagus.
- A fundoplication with a double-layer incision. This lets a surgeon see more of the esophagus and reduces the chance of complications.
Your child may need these procedures to treat other conditions as well.
GERD is a chronic condition, so it can be hard to keep it from worsening. In addition to medications, your child should work with a doctor to manage the symptoms.
If you have concerns about your child’s GERD, talk to their doctor. They can work with you to manage your child’s symptoms.
How can I help my child?
GERD is a common condition. Children with GERD should work with their doctor to:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Avoid foods that cause heartburn
- Try diet changes or medications as needed
- Follow their treatment plan
- Talk to their doctor about any symptoms, especially if it’s heart-related
- Maintain a healthy weight, and if they don’t, work with a doctor to help them lose it
- Ask their doctor about any other concerns they have
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco if GERD is causing their symptoms
- Maintain a healthy weight
- See a doctor if they have any of the symptoms listed above
Your child will need to work with a doctor to manage their symptoms and make healthy lifestyle changes.
Take a look at your child’s medications and talk to your doctor if you think they’re causing your child’s symptoms.
Take a look at your child’s lifestyle, and ask your child’s doctor if you think they need to make changes.
What can I do to prevent GERD in my child?
You can do a lot to prevent GERD, but you can’t always prevent it from happening. When you have GERD, the best thing you can do is monitor your child’s symptoms.
If your child has heartburn, try to avoid the foods that cause it. Avoid fatty, spicy, or acidic foods.
If your child has acid reflux, they should avoid foods that cause heartburn. If they want to eat certain foods, they should eat smaller amounts.
If you have GERD, it’s important to work with your doctor to find out what’s causing your child’s symptoms.
If you have GERD, don’t make any major lifestyle changes. You can still eat a balanced diet, and avoid foods that cause heartburn.
What are the symptoms of GERD in children?
GERD is a chronic condition, so it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Acid reflux
- Regurgitation (stomach contents coming back up)
Other symptoms may include:
- Bad breath
What are the complications of GERD in children?
GERD can cause complications, including:
- Blood in the vomit (hematemesis)
- Esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus
GERD can also be life threatening. If you have severe GERD, it can block the esophagus. The blockage can cause a blockage in the windpipe, which is the tube that brings air to the lungs. This blockage can be fatal.
What is the long-term outlook for GERD in children?
GERD is a chronic condition. It can be managed with medications and a healthy diet.
The best way to prevent GERD in children is to monitor the symptoms. If a child has symptoms, they should take their doctor’s advice.
If you think your child has GERD, don’t make any major lifestyle changes until you talk to their doctor.
If your child has GERD, they should follow their treatment plan.
Take a look at your child’s medications and ask your child’s doctor about any concerns you have.
How do I help my child with GERD?
You can help your child get through GERD by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Not eating spicy or fatty foods
- Applying a cold compress
- Using a proton pump inhibitor (PPI)
- Avoiding alcohol and tobacco if GERD is causing symptoms
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding excessive caffeine intake
- Smoking cessation if GERD is causing symptoms
How do I know if my child’s GERD is severe?
If you have a child with GERD and they have heartburn, they should avoid the following foods:
- Spicy foods
- Acidic foods
- Alcoholic drinks
- Carbonated drinks
If your child does have heartburn, they should try to avoid acidic foods.
What can I do if my child has GERD?
If you think your child’s GERD is severe, don’t make any major lifestyle changes. You can watch their symptoms, and ask their doctor about any concerns.
If your doctor doesn’t know what’s causing your child’s symptoms, they may want to test for acid reflux.
If your doctor tests for acid reflux, they may prescribe one of the following medications:
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
- H2 receptor antagonists
If your doctor prescribes medication, they may tell you to watch your child’s diet.
If your family doctor prescribes medication, they may advise you to follow a food and symptom diary. This will help you keep track of what your child eats and drinks.
You can use this diary to see if certain foods are causing your child’s symptoms.
Your child may also need to see a pediatric gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in conditions of the digestive system).
What is the bottom line?
GERD is common in children and can cause a range of symptoms.
If your kid has GERD, talk to their doctor about monitoring their symptoms. Your child’s symptoms should be checked out by a doctor.
GERD can be a serious chronic condition. It can cause heart damage and can be life-threatening. Work with your child’s doctor and dietitian to find out if medication and lifestyle changes are the best treatment for your child.
Your child will need to see their doctor regularly to monitor their condition. They’ll likely need to continue taking the medications for a while. They should also monitor their symptoms.
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