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5 Signs Your Child’s Digestive Health Needs Help

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux)

GERD is common in kids, especially very young children. Many things can trigger the acidic backflow of reflux, including:

  • Food allergies
  • Problems with the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus   

When to call your doctor: Fortunately, reflux tends to get better on its own, or can be prevented by avoiding trigger foods like peppermint, chocolate, and fatty foods. Signs that GERD may be serious include:

  • Poor weight gain
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting green or yellow fluid
  • Stomach or chest pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Chronic cough
  • Crying or moodiness
  • Problems swallowing   

Picky, Fussy Eating

Picky, limited eating in children should also be a red flag for parents, Tolcher tells WebMD, though such a vague symptom can be a sign of many digestive problems in children. GERD can cause kids to be fussy eaters, the smell or texture of a food can lead to picky behaviors, as can gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea.   

Limited eating is also a sign of an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. More common in teens and young adults, eating disorders can occur in children of any age, even as young as 5.

When to call your doctor: If your child is experiencing poor weight gain, if they vomit or gag on certain foods, if they experience heartburn or GERD when they eat, or have abdominal pain during or after meals, call your pediatrician.

Other Digestive Health Problems in Kids

There are less common issues that can cause children to have digestive problems, including:

  • Celiac disease
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Congenital bowel or liver issues
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hepatitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

Kids can't always explain what they're feeling, so no matter what the symptoms are, whether they're vague or mild, sudden or chronic, if you're worried about your child's digestive health, don't wait, call you doctor.

Reviewed on January 08, 2013

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