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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

GERD and Acid Reflux in Infants and Children

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Most infants occasionally spit up throughout the day. However, when regurgitation causes other problems or is associated with other symptoms, it may be due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can also occur in older children.

What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Infants and Children?

The most common symptoms of reflux in kids are:

  • Frequent or recurrent vomiting
  • Frequent or persistent cough
  • Refusing to eat or difficulty eating (choking or gagging with feeding)
  • Crying with feeding or after feeding
  • Heartburn, gas, or abdominal pain

Many other symptoms are sometimes blamed on gastroesophageal reflux, but much of the time, it isn't clear if reflux actually causes them. Other possibilities in young children and infants include:

  • Colic
  • Poor growth
  • Breathing problems
  • Recurrent pneumonia

What Causes GERD and Acid Reflux in Infants and Children?

Like in adults with the condition, gastroesophageal reflux is the upward movement of stomach contents into the esophagus and sometimes into or out of the mouth.

Usually, infants with the condition are otherwise healthy, but some babies have other problems affecting their nerves, brain, or muscles. According to the National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse, a child's immature digestive system is usually to blame. They add that most infants grow out of GERD by the time they are 1 year old.

In older children, the causes of GERD are different than what is seen in infants and adults. Anything that causes the muscular valve between the stomach and esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter or LES) to relax, or anything that increases the pressure below the LES, can cause GERD. Such things include obesity, overeating, constipation, and certain foods, beverages, and medications.

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