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Gastroesophageal Reflux in Babies and Children - Topic Overview

How is it treated?

Most babies stop having reflux over time, so the doctor may just suggest that you follow some steps to help reduce the problem until it goes away. For example, it may help to:

  • Burp your baby a few times during each feeding.
  • Keep your baby upright for 30 minutes after each feeding. Avoid a "car seat position," because sitting can make reflux worse in babies.
  • Avoid feeding too much at one time. Give your baby smaller meals more often.
  • Thicken your baby's formula with a small amount of rice cereal if your doctor recommends it.
  • Keep your baby away from smoky areas.

For older children and teens, it may help to:

  • Avoid large meals before exercise.
  • Raise the head of your child’s bed 6 in. (15 cm) to 8 in. (20 cm). Using extra pillows does not work.
  • Have your child stay upright for 2 to 3 hours after eating.
  • Serve 5 or 6 small meals instead of 2 or 3 big ones.
  • Limit foods that might make reflux worse. These include chocolate, sodas that have caffeine, spicy foods, fried foods, and high-acid foods such as oranges and tomatoes.
  • Keep your child away from smoky areas.

If these steps don't work, the doctor may suggest medicine. Medicines that may be used include:

  • Antacids, such as Mylanta and Maalox. Antacids neutralize stomach acid and relieve heartburn. You can buy these without a prescription. But they are not usually recommended for long-term use.
  • H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid), and ranitidine (Zantac). H2 blockers reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. You can buy some of these without a prescription. For stronger doses, you will need a prescription.
  • Proton pump inhibitors, such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and omeprazole (Prilosec). You can buy some proton pump inhibitors without a prescription.

Before you give your child any over-the-counter medicine for reflux:

  • Talk to your child's doctor.
  • Read the label. Do not give a child any product that contains bismuth subsalicylate, such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate. Experts think it may be linked to Reye syndrome, a rare but serious illness.
  • Be sure you understand how much and how often to give the medicine to your child. If you are not sure, ask your doctor.

Children with reflux rarely need surgery. It may be an option for babies or children who have severe reflux that causes breathing problems or keeps them from growing.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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