Do GERD and heartburn affect children differently than adults?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn are common in children and sometimes may be overlooked or misdiagnosed. One potential reason for the misunderstanding is the fact that a milder disorder related to GERD and known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is very common in infants and, although the symptoms are very similar to those of GERD, most babies are not harmed by it and outgrow it in their first year. Some spitting up and vomiting is normal in babies, but forceful or repeated vomiting, refusing to eat, coughing, wheezing and difficulty swallowing are not and may be symptoms of GERD. Older children might also complain of nausea or heartburn. If the symptoms are severe or persist, the child should be seen by a doctor. Once the symptoms are recognized, the process of diagnosing and treating GERD and heartburn is the same for children as for adults.

Treatment of GERD (reflux) depends on your child’s symptoms and age. If she is uncomfortable, has difficulty sleeping or eating or isn’t growing enough, your doctor may try medication. Antacid medications like Zantac, are available in dosages that are appropriate for children. However, these are for occasional use on a case-by-case basis. Other treatments include eating smaller meals, not lying down right after eating, and sleeping with a bit more elevation to the head. GERD can be managed through diet as well by avoiding foods that are high in fat or acid, chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, peppermint and carbonated drinks, especially with a meal. An antacid taken after eating and at bedtime may cut your child’s discomfort level too.

From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.

Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.