Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or more usually called reflux, occurs when stomach acid flows backwards out of the stomach and into the oesophagus resulting in burning and irritation. Some researchers believe that reflux is a common condition in babies and children and is often overlooked as a source of distress.
What causes reflux?
Normally, the small muscular flap at the bottom of the oesophagus opens only to allow food to enter the stomach. However, if this muscle relaxes too much, stomach acid can back up into the oesophagus, causing reflux.
Is reflux serious?
Reflux can be serious. The constant irritation of the oesophageal lining can result in sores, bleeding, and precancerous conditions. The oesophagus can also start to narrow making swallowing difficult.
Can I prevent reflux?
Some cases of adult reflux are the result of obesity and/or smoking, and in such cases, reflux can be prevented by changing lifestyle habits. Reflux in babies and children can often be improved by a change in diet and/or medication.
How do I know if my child has reflux?
Children with reflux may have the following symptoms:
- Excessive regurgitation and possetting
- Failure to thrive
- Respiratory problems like wheezing, asthma or pneumonia
How do I treat reflux?
To help relieve the symptoms of reflux, make sure that your child does not overeat. Also, keep her from lying down immediately after eating. There are several over-the-counter medications that you can use to relieve symptoms for older children, but consult your doctor before using any of these long term. Your doctor may also advise using prescription medication. In extreme cases, some cases of reflux may require surgery to repair the muscle.
Should I call the doctor?
Make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect your child has reflux. He can help you diagnose the condition and determine the best treatment options for your child.
What you need to know about reflux
- Reflux is a condition in which the muscle between the oesophagus and the stomach relaxes to let stomach acid back up into the oesophagus.
- Reflux can result in bleeding, sores, and pre-cancerous cells in the oesophagus.
- Reflux can be treated with medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes, surgery.
Find more relevant articles and information about reflux
- How do I feed my baby with reflux?
- Read more about breast feeding your baby
- Read more about bottle feeding your baby
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Wednesday, 20 January 2010
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.