Infant GERD - FAQs | Symptoms of GERD | GERD in Infants


What are the symptoms of Infant GERD?

There are many different symptoms of GERD. Your child may only have a few of these symptoms.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Poor sleep habits and frequent waking
  • Nausea or spitting up more than one hour after eating
  • Refusing food and accepting only a few bites besides being hungry
  • Pain, irritability, stomach pain, constant crying
  • Bad breath

The less common symptoms of pediatric GERD include:

  • Intolerance of certain foods
  • Frequent red, sore throat
  • Ear infections
  • Excessive salvation and drooling
  • Swallowing problems, choking and gagging
  • Constant eating and drinking to pacify sore throat
  • Respiratory problems, bronchitis, asthma, apnea, wheezing, pneumonia, aspiration
  • Constantly running nose and sinus infections

If you think your child may have GERD, please contact your child's physician. It is also very important to let your physician know if your child develops new symptoms or if the symptoms change.

How serious is GERD?

Many young children (about 60%) regurgitate a small amount of milk occasionally, particularly when burping after meals. This "spitting up" is normal. Others vomit a large portion of every feeding. The severity of the reflux itself is not what matters.

Reflux only becomes a problem when the child is showing signs of complications. When children develop complications they said to have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD.

What are the possible complications of pediatric GERD?

Most children with mild reflux get improved by age one without developing any medical complications.

A burning sensation called heartburn is produced when stomach acid flows into the esophagus. If the acid reflux causes reddening and swelling of the esophagus, this is called esophagitis.

Esophagitis can be quite painful and can lessen the desire to eat. Severe esophagitis can lead to bleeding from the inflamed portion of the esophagus.

If swelling has been present for a long time, scar tissue can also form inside the lower esophagus. When the scar tissue forms it reduces the size of the esophageal opening and makes swallowing difficult. This type of scar is called a stricture.

Babies with acid reflux can also develop respiratory problems from stomach contents entering the nose, windpipe or lungs. When material enters the lungs this is called aspiration. Acid reflux is now recognized as a cause of sinus infections.

Another possible complication of acid reflux is poor growth due to a lack of sufficient nutrition. Malnutrition can result from losing too much food from frequent vomiting or from lack of hunger due to pain. If inadequate growth continues, developing vital organs can be damaged and the child may not have enough energy to learn to walk and run.

Stomach acid can melt tooth enamel. Take your child to a dentist as soon as his or her teeth start coming in. Make sure that the dentist watches for tooth decay and enamel erosion.

What is the relationship between GERD and sleep apnea?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition caused by acid backing up into the esophagus and is a common reason of heartburn. GERD and sleep apnea often occur together.

In one study, almost half of apnea patients had symptoms of GERD, and these symptoms also tend to be worse at night and in the morning and particularly hard to treat.

The back up of stomach acid in GERD may produce spasms in the vocal cords (larynx), thereby blocking the flow of air to the lungs and causing apnea. Or, sleep apnea itself may cause pressure changes that trigger GERD. It should be noted, however, that excess weight is frequent in both conditions and may be the common factor.


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