Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Infants or Children
What Are the Treatments for Acid Reflux in Infants and Children?
There are a variety of lifestyle measures you can try for acid reflux in babies and older children:
- Elevate the head of the baby's crib or bassinet.
- Hold the baby upright for 30 minutes after a feeding.
- Thicken bottle feedings with cereal (do not do this without your doctor's approval).
- Feed your baby smaller amounts of food more often.
- Try solid food (with your doctor's approval).
For older children:
- Elevate the head of the child's bed.
- Keep the child upright for at least two hours after eating.
- Serve several small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
- Make sure your child is not overeating.
- Limit foods and beverages that seem to worsen your child's reflux such as high fat, fried or spicy foods, carbonation, and caffeine.
- Encourage your child to get regular exercise.
If the reflux is severe or doesn't get better, your doctor may recommend medication.
Drugs to Neutralize or Decrease Stomach Acid
Drugs to decrease stomach acid include:
Researchers aren't sure whether decreasing stomach acid lessens reflux in infants.
For the most part, drugs that decrease intestinal gas or neutralize stomach acid (antacids) are very safe. At high doses, antacids can cause some side effects, such as diarrhea. Chronic use of very high doses of Maalox or Mylanta may be associated with an increased risk of rickets (thinning of the bones).
Side effects from medications that inhibit the production of stomach acid are uncommon. A small number of children may develop some sleepiness when they take Zantac, Pepcid, Axid, or Tagamet.
Surgery for GERD in Babies and Kids
Surgery isn't often needed to treat acid reflux in babies and kids. When it is necessary, a fundoplication is the most often performed surgery. During this procedure, the top part of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus forming a cuff that contracts and closes off the esophagus whenever the stomach contracts -- preventing reflux.
The procedure is usually effective, but it is not without risk. Discuss the potential risks and benefits of any operation with your child's doctor.