Acid Reflux in Children

Girl with acid reflux

Acid Reflux in Children

Your child may be experiencing acid reflux if they are complaining of heartburn, pain during or after eating or throw up in their mouth.

Acid reflux occurs in children when stomach acid refluxes upward into the food pipe or esophagus. This occasionally happens to everyone, but if it occurs too often, it can damage your child’s esophagus.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Many children will not complain of heartburn even though it is the most common symptom of acid reflux. Instead, they may complain of:

  • abdominal pain
  • painful swallowing
  • sore throat
  • awakening at night with chest pain
  • nighttime cough
  • regurgitation
  • burping
  • poor or picky eating

Why Does Acid Reflux Happen?

Acid reflux is the result of a malfunctioning muscle at the end of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter. This muscle normally opens and closes to allow food into the stomach. If the lower esophageal sphincter opens (or relaxes) longer or more often than it should, stomach acid refluxes into the esophagus.

Diet and Lifestyle and Acid Reflux

Certain lifestyle and dietary habits can contribute to acid reflux, including: 

  • caffeinated beverages such as soda
  • chocolate
  • high acid foods such as orange juice, lemonade, or tomato-based products
  • high-fat foods such as fries, pizza, dressing, and butter
  • eating large meals
  • eating within two hours of bedtime
  • smoke exposure
  • excess weight

What You Can Do to Stop Acid Reflux

Speak to your child’s physician if your child is experiencing reflux symptoms. Often times, simple changes can stop the reflux symptoms. Consider trying the following:

  • eat smaller meals
  • avoid eating and drinking within two hours of bedtime or sports
  • elevate the head of the bed by 30 degrees
  • eliminate caffeine, high fat, and high acid foods from the diet
  • keep a food journal

Medications

Medications such as histamine antagonist or proton pump inhibitors are often used to treat acid reflux. Many of these medications (Zantac, Pepcid, Pevacid, Prilosec, Nexium, and Zegerid) are now available over the counter. Before using any of these medications, please consult your child’s doctor to discuss appropriate dosing and timing of the medication. 

Further Evaluation

Sometimes an upper endoscopy by a pediatric gastroenterologist is needed to assess the extent of the acid damage.

Seek medical attention if you are concerned that your child is having acid reflux. Do not neglect the symptoms or use over-the-counter medications on a regular basis.

If you would like more information about acid reflux and gastrointestinal (GI) digestive disorders and nutrition in children, please contact Dr. Mona Dave’s Plano Office or Southlake Office.

 

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