Everything about GERD in infants, its symptoms, causes and treatments. We hope that our tips and advice will help you to solve your problem.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is making the news far more than it used to. It seems that almost everyone knows someone who has chronic acid reflux. The supermarket shelf is packed with an overwhelming choice of digestive aids, indicating that America has a real problem. What most people don’t know is this problem can actually start at birth.
Rosalie Wise’s baby, Mindy, was just 3 days old when she was diagnosed with infant GERD. The Wises had just brought their beautiful, healthy baby girl home from the hospital when suddenly she stopped breathing. “My sister was filming Mindy’s first bath,” says Wise. “Suddenly Mind stopped breathing, her body was arched and stiff and she was also turning purple. I yelled for someone to call 911.”
Mindy spent four days in the hospital where they diagnosed her immediately with reflux. She received an upper gastrointestinal (GI) scan and was given an appointment with a specialist. The specialist ordered a pH probe, a procedure that tests the level of acid in your esophagus.
“This was the definitive diagnosis,” says Wise.
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What Is It?
Julio H., an employee at a reflux related association, believes it is important for parents to understand exactly what reflux is. Reflux is the abnormal backwashing of stomach contents and acid up the food tube, or esophagus. The gate at the end of the esophagus relaxes to allow food into the stomach, but with reflux it relaxes at the wrong time and allows acid to wash back up. Typical symptoms include vomiting, irritability and poor sleep and eating habits.
“Some parents do not understand that a baby can have reflux and little or no vomiting,” says Julio. “This is often referred to as silent reflux. The acid and stomach contents reach the esophagus and perhaps the throat and get swallowed back down. The silent reflux may be more painful and cause more irritability than typical vomiting and spit up.”
If you want to learn more about reflux in babies check our another article : Reflux in Babies : Symptoms and Precautions
How to Understand
Angela P., an expert at a medicine department of a university, says there are many signs of GERD that parents can recognize. “The signs are fussiness after eating, weight loss, feeding problems and arching after feeds and in rare cases vomiting blood,” says Angela. “Signs of infantile discomfort after feeds are all possible signs of GERD. In addition, infants and children can have wheezing and recurrent nose and ear infections that may be precipitated by GERD.”
Respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing and choking are also seen, as well as a stuffy nose and ear infections. It can be confusing because a baby with reflux may have difficulty gaining weight due to poor eating and pain. However, a baby with reflux may also be normal or above normal weight.
“Although no one can assess how painful GERD is for infants, parents frequently describe prolonged crying and arching associated with episodes of GERD,” says Angela. “In adults, GERD can mimic signs of a heart attack. Thus, symptoms of GERD can be quite painful for children and adults.”
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Treatment of GERD in Infants
“The primary treatment of GERD in infants consists of behavioral maneuvers,” says Angela. “Upright posturing and thickening the feeds with rice cereal may decrease regurgitation. When symptoms of GERD occur, physicians will usually prescribe medications to block stomach acid, which decrease the pain associated with GERD. Occasionally physicians can use medications that increase the gastric emptying (intestinal prokinetics) and decrease the chance of regurgitation to occur. The benefits and risks for treatment should be assessed for each child and discussed with your doctor.”
Betsy D. Luna from Calabasas, Calif., had to go one step further when treating her sons, both of whom ended up having GERD. “I knew something was wrong after three days of bringing him home,” says Luna. “I noticed he would pull off the breast and cry a few seconds after he began feeding. Then he would arch his back and try to re-attack the nipple as if he were desperately hungry. We would replay this scenario for as long as necessary, but I never sensed he fed enough to be full.”
It took several weeks for Luna’ baby to be diagnosed, and while she was relieved to finally have an answer, she was afraid of how serious the condition could be. “Our specialist was wonderful and gave me a lot of advice on positioning my son for feeding and sleep, which helped,” says Luna. “We mixed rice cereal into his breast milk and fed him upright from a bottle, which improved his ability to feed. We found he slept best in his car seat, which we placed in his crib. We continued trying different medicines, and I began seeking support from other parents and online groups.”
To learn about basic breastfeeding positions : Holding On Basic Breastfeeding Positions
Though the behavioral modifications helped immensely, Luna ended up having to approve of a Nissen fundoplication surgery for both of them. During this surgery, the top part of the stomach is used to form a cuff around the esophagus that closes off the esophagus whenever the stomach contracts, which prevents the acid reflux.
It is important to note that very few infants have to have this procedure. “Most children with GERD do not need surgery, nor do they have this severe form of the disorder,” says Luna. “Following surgery, both recovered and went about the business of being little boys. They are doing wonderfully now.”
Luna says parents who may feel their child has a similar problem need to listen to their instincts and have it checked out. “The doctor may see your child for 10 to 15 minutes, but you spend 24 hours a day with him or her,” she says. “Keep a symptom diary for your child. Ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to ask the doctor to explain something again if you don’t understand. Don’t hesitate to stand up and tell your doctor a treatment or medicine isn’t working or that you don’t agree with him or her. After all, you are the best advocate for your child.”
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The names of the people mentioned in the article have been changed for security reasons and to protect privacy.