How to Recognize Acid Reflux in Children
Acid reflux in children is a real cause for concern. It drives us frantic when our children are sick and scrunched up in pain. We suffer as much as they do… but how on Earth can we help?
First of all, we have to find out what’s wrong… and recognizing acid reflux in children can sometimes be tricky, especially if it’s a toddler.
If a child complains of a tummy ache or sore chest, you should narrow it down by asking a few questions such as:
- Where does it hurt?
- Does it burn?
- Is your throat sore?
- Is there a bitter taste in the back of your throat?
And so on. It’s probably acid indigestion if s/he reports a burning sensation in the chest or solar plexus area, especially if it’s accompanied by a nasty taste.
Dose the child with half a teaspoon of ‘Arm and Hammer’ bicarbonate dissolved in warm water. If the pain goes away you can be sure that it is heartburn and you can relax a little… Ordinary heartburn is uncomfortable, but it’s not dangerous. However, you should be on the alert for further symptoms indicating a more serious condition, namely GERD.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Children
Common symptom of acid reflux in children:
- Chest pain (burning sensation).
- Regurgitation after eating, followed by a nasty taste in the back of the throat.
- Pickiness about food or reluctance to eat.
- After dinner nausea.
- Sore throat.
- Occasional gagging or choking.
- Wheezing, bronchitis or asthma.
- Hacking cough accompanied by hoarseness.
- Poor sleep patterns.
- Excessive drooling — a condition known as ‘water brash’.
- Bad breath.
- Poor growth patterns.
If one or more of the above are presented, it’s time to introduce a few dietary and lifestyle changes… not only for the child, but also for the entire family.
Recommended Lifestyle Changes
- Replace fizzy drinks with non-carbonated fruit juices.
- No strenuous playing or exercise for an hour after eating.
- Serve smaller meals and include a decent mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack in their daily diet.
- Serve the evening meal at least three hours before bedtime.
- Make sure they drink plenty of bottled water.
- No water during meals.
- No chocolate or peppermint.
- Elevate the head of the child’s bed by placing by 6-inch high blocks or bricks under the feet.
What if the Heartburn Persists?
If the heartburn persists or worsens after making these changes, your child may have GERD and you should see your doctor ASAP.
Also, a follow-up visit to the dentist is a must. Acid reflux can sometime cause the loss of dental enamel.
Specialized treatment is absolutely essential for the small percentage of babies and young children who develop GERD. These babies and youngsters are prone to other serious diseases if the condition is left untreated, such as:
- Damage to the lungs. If gastric juices enter the windpipe, problems such as bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma are sure to follow. In the worse case scenario, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) could result.
- Esophagitis. Gastric acid continuously splashing the walls of the food pipe causes inflammation that could lead to esophagitis.
If left untreated esophagitis becomes extremely painful making it almost impossible for the child to swallow.
Ulcers soon appear in the food pipe… followed by scarring. These scars pucker and shrink the walls of the esophagus causing it to narrow. These strictures can block the esophagus and prevent food from reaching the stomach.
If an ulcer ruptures, it could lead to life-threatening internal bleeding… Beware of black or bloody stools.
- Barrett’s Esophagus is a fairly rare condition that occurs in a small percentage of sufferers. However, this condition is dangerous! If left untreated it could lead to a deadly form of cancer.
Your doctor may prescribe a proton pump inhibitor or an H2 blocker in order to control acid production. This may be necessary in order to allow the injured esophagus time to heal.
Make sure that your child does not take these medications for more than 8 weeks without further evaluation.