Children and Acid Reflux - dummies

By Patricia Raymond, Michelle Beaver

Children can experience acid reflux just like adults. Most children who get acid reflux experience their symptoms shortly after eating. Playing energetically (jumping, running) after meals and lying down after meals also makes reflux symptoms more likely and oftentimes more severe.

Unlike adults, the symptoms children experience as a result of their acid reflux often vary based on age. The most common symptoms for preschool-age children include weight loss, a lack of interest in food, regurgitation or vomiting, and in rare cases, wheezing. The wheezing is much more common in children who have been diagnosed with asthma. Children who can’t talk yet will sometimes indicate their discomfort by pounding their chests.

Older children and adolescents can experience many of the same symptoms as their younger counterparts, and a wider range of symptoms. Older children are more likely to experience pain or burning in their upper chest (heartburn).

They’ll often complain that it’s difficult to swallow or that they feel like food gets stuck in their throats. Complaints of nausea and vomiting are common, too. These children are more likely to awaken at night with abdominal pain or nausea.

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with the child’s doctor before beginning any treatment plan. Because there are several other medical issues that have reflux-like symptoms, confirming that it is, in fact, reflux is important.

If the child doesn’t have other medical problems as a result of reflux, doctors will usually recommend lifestyle changes. These changes include altering dietary habits, avoiding certain foods, losing weight, raising the head of the bed, and limiting exposure to cigarette smoke. The doctor may also recommend some acid reflux medications.

Children with complications as a result of their acid reflux often require additional medical testing. For instance, children who complain of difficulty or pain when swallowing may need an upper endoscopy test. If the doctor is unable to confirm acid reflux as the source of the problem with this test, he may recommend a 24-hour esophageal pH test. The doctor may recommend a barium swallow test if he suspects the symptoms are not acid reflux.