Acid reflux is a painful condition caused by stomach acid reaching the esophagus and other parts of the upper digestive tract. Pediatric specialists are well-trained in handling acid reflux, both in infants and young children. The treatment plan looks very different between these two groups, and it is important to consider a child’s development.
Medication is an option for serious cases, and there is a wide variety of types of GERD medications, including antacids (Tums), anti-histamines (Zantac), and proton-pump inhibitors (Nexium). But for young children, it is always best to try to make lifestyle changes before resorting to medication. Quite often, even the smallest changes can make a big difference if the issues are identified early.
Acid Reflux in Infants
Believe it or not (and you probably believe it if you are reading this article), babies can have acid reflux. The cause for infants is an underdeveloped gastrointestinal tract. Pediatric specialists will often suggest making changes to the feeding process, which is when it is most often recognized. Babies who have acid reflux may not take food well, cry after they breastfeed, or even show signs that they do not want to eat.
The most important steps to take when an infant is experiencing acid reflux is to refrain from letting them lay down directly after eating and to feed them in smaller amounts at higher intervals, as opposed to larger amounts. This will ensure that they are able to properly digest the food and not experience the painful symptoms.
Reflux in Young Children
For this age range, pediatric specialists will suggest more serious lifestyle changes, as it is less likely to disappear on its own like they do in babies under one year old. Much like a baby, children should stay up for hours after eating, not eat too soon before bed, and eat smaller, more frequent meals. Ensuring that the child is getting enough exercise will also have a positive impact, as obesity is commonly associated with acid reflux in all ages.
A healthier diet will make a world of difference as well. There are many foods that can cause acid reflux, but they are generally less nutritional anyway. Drinks that are high in sugar and carbonation (namely, soda and juice) are often the worst offenders. Spicy and fried foods are two other common culprits.
As opposed to frying foods, try baking or grilling. Reducing spice content should also be easy to do, especially in home-cooked meals. And instead of sugary drinks, make water the drink with meals. Young children cannot cook for themselves yet, so it is the responsibility of the caregivers to ensure that the children are eating the right foods to protect their esophagus and stomach. A pediatric specialist will be able to offer more diet advice by hearing individual issues the child is experiencing.
Adults with GERD and acid reflux are all too aware of the pain that comes with the burning sensation and other symptoms. For a baby or young child, it can be even more distressing, and they often will not be able to properly communicate what is wrong.
Thankfully, acid reflux in this age range can be reversed and alleviated by making the right changes and feeding them a little differently. See pediatric specialists to learn more if lifestyle changes alone have not worked.