May 20, 2009

Acid Reflux and Infants

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Acid reflux, more accurately known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition in which stomach acid and other enzyme rise up into the esophagus, causing a variety of symptoms, of which the most common is heartburn. In some cases, food might be regurgitated, and the patient may experience difficulty even in swallowing. In some occurrences of acid reflux, there may also be nausea.

You usually hear of symptoms such as heartburn only in adults, but gastroesophageal reflux disease can also affect children, including infants. The inability to explain or even communicate their symptoms is what makes this a particularly troublesome condition for children. Gastroesophageal disease in infants is extremely difficult to detect, since there are often no direct outward signs. In many cases, the main symptom is pain in the chest, which is of course not obvious to the parent. Parents therefore need to rely upon signs such as inexplicable and constant crying, refusal to eat or drink, bad breath, frequent burping, and failure to gain weight. In some cases, slightly more obvious signs may be present, such as frequent vomiting, or simply spitting up or dribbling. The acid reflux can also affect the respiratory system, so there may also be symptoms such as frequent coughing and a runny nose. Due to frequent inhaling of the stomach contents, the infant may also develop bronchitis or pneumonia.

As you can see, the signs of gastroesophageal reflux in infants are not very clear. Many of the symptoms described could be caused by several other infections and conditions. It is therefore essential to consult a reliable medical professional, especially if the symptoms continue in spite of the first line of treatment.

In many cases of infant acid reflux, the condition is temporary and does not need treatment. As the child grows and the gastrointestinal system learns to function better, the symptoms will disappear and the condition will resolve itself. However, in a considerable number of cases, there may be no improvement in the child’s condition, and in fact the symptoms may get worse. This is especially so in cases where gastroesophageal reflux disease runs in the family.

Treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease primarily consists of simple changes to feeding habits and lifestyle. This involves elevating the head of the infant’s crib or simply holding the child upright after feeding, and may also include feeding more solid food or changing the feeding schedule. However, none of these changes should be made without first consulting a pediatrician. In cases where such measures do not work, the doctor will prescribe suitable medication.