Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Infants or Children
What Are the Symptoms of GERD in Infants and Children?
The most common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux in infants and children are:
- Frequent or recurrent vomiting
- Frequent or persistent cough or wheezing
- Refusing to eat or difficulty eating (choking or gagging with feeding)
Heartburn, gas, abdominal pain, or colicky behavior (frequent crying and fussiness) associated with feeding or immediately after
- Regurgitation and re-swallowing
- Complaining of a sour taste in their mouth, especially in the morning
Many other symptoms are sometimes blamed on GERD, but much of the time, we really aren't sure whether reflux actually causes them. Other problems seen in young children and infants that may be blamed on the condition include:
Do Babies Outgrow GERD?
Yes. Most babies outgrow reflux by age 1 with less than 5% continuing to have symptoms as toddlers. However, GERD can also occur in older children. In either case, the problem is usually manageable.
How Is GERD Diagnosed in Infants and Children?
Usually, the medical history as told by the parent is enough for the doctor to diagnose GERD, especially if the problem occurs regularly and causes discomfort. The growth chart and diet history are also helpful, but occasionally, further tests are recommended. They may include:
Barium swallow or upper GI series.
This is a special X-ray test that uses barium to highlight the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine. This test may identify any obstructions or narrowing in these areas.
During the test, your child is asked to swallow a long, thin tube with a probe at the tip that will stay in the esophagus for 24 hours. The tip is positioned, usually at the lower part of the esophagus, and measures levels of stomach acids. It also helps determine if breathing problems are the result of GERD.
Upper GI endoscopy.
This is done using an endoscope (a thin, flexible, lighted tube and camera) that allows the doctor to look directly inside the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine.
Gastric emptying study. Some people with GERD have a slow emptying of the stomach that may be contributing to the reflux of acid. During this test, your child drinks milk or eats food mixed with a radioactive chemical. This chemical is followed through the gastrointestinal tract using a special camera.