Treating Acid Reflux in Babies
How do you know if your child has acid reflux? What do I do when my child has acid reflux? These are all common questions we hear from parents who are concerned about the possibility of acid reflux and other gastrointestinal problems. Here’s what you need to know about acid reflux, its causes, and its symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Infants and Children
Acid reflux in adults is not necessarily hard to diagnose. We know when we have excessive heartburn, indigestion, and the unpleasant side effects associated with various gastrointestinal problems. Diagnosing acid reflux in infants and children who can’t always voice the location of their pain or describe their symptoms is a bit more difficult.
How do I know if my child has acid reflux?
There are some telling signs that your child may have acid reflux however. If you’re concerned about whether or not your child has acid reflux, look for the following signs and symptoms of acid reflux in babies and kids.
1. Frequent Nausea and Vomiting After Meals
One of the most common signs and symptoms of acid reflux in children is frequent nausea and vomiting. While a variety of illnesses can cause nausea and vomiting, throwing up after meals for an extended period of time is cause for concern that could be related to acid reflux. If your child is vomiting after meals, this can lead to more serious complications such as vitamin deficiencies which can cause growth problems.
2. Forceful Spitting Up + Bloody Spit Up
Frequent, forceful spitting up, or spit up with blood, are both causes for concern. Acid reflux causes forceful spitting up that is both painful and can lead to inflammation, irritation, and other problems with the intestinal lining that can affect digestion and nutrient absorption. If your child has blood in his or her spit up, consult a pediatrician as soon as possible. Spit up that resembles coffee grounds is also cause for concern and should be evaluated by your child’s pediatrician.
3. Bloody Stool
Bloody stool is also a sign of acid reflux in children and babies. Due to the irritation caused by stomach acid, lesions and abrasions can cause bleeding that can be found in the stool. Like bloody spit up, bloody stool should always be evaluated by a pediatrician as soon as possible.
4. Extreme Food Aversion or Intolerance
Most kids are picky eaters at various stages of their lives, but one sign of a serious case of acid reflux is a child who repeatedly turns away any type of food, including foods they typically love or have loved in the past.
How do I know if it’s acid reflux or picky eating?
If your little one is turning away healthy foods or those he isn’t interested in trying, chances are he or she is enjoying a phase of picky eating. Children who turn away food due to acid reflux may be more irritable at meal times and may even take dramatic or drastic steps to avoid the highchair or sitting at the table when it’s time to eat. If you’re concerned about your child’s aversion to foods, or if mealtime tantrums may be more than a symptom of the terrible twos, make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to voice your concerns.
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Causes of Acid Reflux in Infants and Children
Acid reflux in babies and kids can be caused by many factors, including problems with the growth and development of the digestive system, but some of the most common underlying causes include:
1. Acid Reflux Caused by Food Allergies or Intolerances
Children who have food allergies and intolerances to dairy, gluten, and other foods may experience acid reflux more often than those who do not. For this reason, acid reflux should always be monitored by a pediatrician. He or she may recommend avoiding certain foods that can trigger acid reflux, and you may even consider switching to formula or goat’s milk if your child is unable to digest breast milk or cow’s milk. Your pediatrician and/or a pediatric nutrition specialist can help you find the best solutions to ensure your little one receives the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients if your child has a food allergy.
2. Acid Reflux Caused by Intestinal Blockages
While your pediatrician may recognize the symptoms, diagnosis will likely depend on the findings of a pediatric gastroenterologist who can determine whether or not your child has mild intestinal blockages or more serious gastrointestinal problems such as:
- Crohn's's Disease
- Celiac Disease
- Lactose Intolerance
3. Acid Reflux Caused by Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)
Eosinophilic esophagitis is a rare yet serious condition which occurs when white blood cells accumulate in the esophagus, which can prevent serious inflammation and irritation and can also lead to growth and development problems from a lack of vitamins and nutrients if food is not able to be absorbed.
What are the symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis EoE in children?
In children with EoE, swallowing may be painful or difficult, nausea and vomiting may occur after eating, and heartburn may be incessant. Often, acid reflux caused by EoE does not go away even with the use of acid suppressors and antacid medications and over-the-counter remedies. Those with EoE may also experience impacted food which can be both painful and life threatening if airways become constricted.
4. Acid Reflux Caused by Pyloric Stenosis
Pyloric stenosis is a rare yet concerning condition often found in infants from birth up to six months of age. Pyloric stenosis is caused by problems with the small tube which connects the intestines to the stomach, also known as the pylorus. Infants with pyloric stenosis often experience:
- Vomiting or excessive spitting up after eating
- Excessive hunger
- Growth problems
- Nutrition deficiencies
- Bowel problems such as bloody or compacted stool
How do I know if my child has pyloric stenosis?
Pyloric stenosis often manifests in male newborns between the ages of 3 weeks and 6 weeks of age. The condition also tends to run in families, as research indicates as many as half of children born with the condition also have siblings or parents who were born with it as well. X-rays and ultrasounds of your baby’s digestive system can help his or her pediatrician determine whether or not nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, and other problems are caused by pyloric stenosis.
If you are concerned about whether or not your child has pyloric stenosis, visit your pediatrician to voice your concerns.
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Is there a cure for pyloric stenosis?
For infants with pyloric stenosis, the condition can become gradually worse as they grow older. If your child is diagnosed with the condition, your pediatrician will first want to rule out any underlying factors such as gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), lactose intolerance, or other gastrointestinal issues. If no other underlying causes are found, A surgical procedure known as a pyloromyotomy may be necessary.
What is a pyloromyotomy?
A pyloromyotomy is a surgical procedure which addresses the thickening of the pylorus in order to prevent obstructions and food blockages. This procedure can sometimes be completed by a non-invasive procedure known as laparoscopy in which a surgeon creates a small incision in the belly button. Your pediatrician can help determine whether or not your child has pyloric stenosis and refer you to the appropriate specialists should the need arise. While surgery is not always required, it can be beneficial and even life-saving in severe cases.