1What you should know about acid reflux in children
I feel that it is safe to make the assumption that most of us have some basic knowledge of the human digestive system thanks to the high school science classes most of us have gone through. A quick recap however may be helpful. Food is first introduced into the mouth, masticated or broken down into smaller particles, then swallowed. The food swallowed is rolled into small boluses that pass through the esophagus through a series of involuntary muscle contractions. A cardiac sphincter at the junction between the esophagus and the body of the stomach relaxes to allow these boluses into the stomach and contracts to prevent food backing up into the food pipe. When this lower esophageal sphincter proves ineffective, acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus and causes acid reflux. Heartburn is usually associated with adults, but it is more common in children than you may think.
This is referred to as gastrointestinal reflux in the medical world. Infants usually suffer from it because of their less developed digestive system. As their system develops, most of them outgrow this condition. For the few that the condition persists, physician attention is usually recommended.
2Symptoms of acid reflux in children
There are many symptoms, that sometimes are ignored, that indicate the presence of this ailment. The most common is the one we all know and that is abdominal pain above the belly button that can radiate into the chest. This is often accompanied with the burning sensation usually associated with heartburn. It is necessary to note that infants as well as children may not be able to clearly state the discomfort they are experiencing. Parents are advised to make clear observations when they suspect heartburn.
There are other symptoms that can be attributed to the acid reflux in children but not with complete certainty. Examples of these symptoms are breathing complications, poor growth and recurrent pneumonia. Sometimes, another indication is picky eating. When children become picky on what they eat, this could be a sign that the food does not agree with them, causing heartburn, however, the child does know it as heartburn.
Causes or reasons for acid reflux in children vary but are usually the same as with adults and include generic and biological reasons as well as overeating, eating certain kinds of foods, drinking carbonated beverages and of course different types of medications.
The process of diagnosing the ailment is usually fairly straightforward. The parent of the child is asked to give an account of the child’s condition, which should be detailed enough to ensure that the doctor makes a correct diagnosis. One of the tests that the doctor may need is a pH test that measures the amount of acid levels in the stomach of the child. A significant drop in the level of pH shows that the acidity in the stomach is high.
After a proper diagnosis, the doctor can then administer drugs and antibiotics. One of the medications often used is something to control the proton-pump inhibitors within the stomach. This helps to ensure the body does not produce any more acid. If there is no stomach acid there won’t be anything backing up into the esophagus, and therefore no more heartburn.
This article is meant as information only and not as doctor’s advice. As always, if you observe any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor or pediatrician about possible acid reflux in children.