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Heartburn in Children and Infants

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Heartburn Treatment for Children

Treatment will depend on your child's age and the cause of the heartburn.

Though it usually improves on its own by the time the child reaches his or her first birthday, heartburn in infants can be difficult to treat. One study that reviewed several common home heartburn relief methods showed that most didn't work -- including putting the infant to sleep in a more upright position (even though this is still recommended), thickening the baby formula, or using a pacifier. Burping your infant or keeping him upright for about 30 minutes after feeding may help, though.

Medications are effective treatments for heartburn that doesn't improve on its own. Heartburn drugs include:

  • H2 blockers (Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid)
  • Proton pump inhibitors (such as Dexilant, Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec)

Both of these types of medications reduce the amount of stomach acids produced, so there is less acid to back up into the esophagus.

You can also try these methods to help relieve frequent heartburn in children:

  • Give your child smaller meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
  • Don't let your child eat within two or three hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid giving your child caffeine and spicy, fried, or acidic foods. Foods to avoid if your child has frequent heartburn include chocolate, caffeinated soda, peppermint, oranges and other citrus fruits, and tomatoes.
  • Raise the head of your child's bed 6 to 8 inches by putting blocks of wood under the bedposts (extra pillows won't help). 

If the symptoms continue, medicine may be needed. In rare cases, a child may need surgery. The procedure is called fundoplication, and it involves wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter (the ring of muscle that opens and closes to allow food into the stomach) to create a band that prevents stomach acids from backing up.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on August 21, 2014
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