Young children and even infants suffer from heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux. The condition occurs when stomach acids backs up into the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter normally keeps the acids in the stomach itself but if it relaxes too much the acids rise up and irritate the delicate lining of the esophagus leading to heartburn.
What Are The Causes?
The causes can be varied but in very young children heartburn may be due to immature digestive tract. In older children, being overweight, exposure to secondhand smoke, eating spicy foods etc could cause acid reflux and heartburn. Some children with neurological conditions like cerebral palsy also can experience heartburn frequently.
Symptoms In Children And Infants
When there is a burning sensation in the chest, neck and throat, children are suspected to have heartburn. If there is acid reflux then a child or an infant will manifest other symptoms like arching their neck during feeding, some sort of chest pain, continuous cough, fussiness, a hoarse voice, pain in swallowing, poor eating, sore throat and wheezing.
Diagnoses of Heartburn in Children & Infants
Diagnosing acid reflux or heartburn in children and infants is a difficult task since they cannot articulate the symptoms like adults. If the child displays any of the symptoms discussed earlier it is advisable to visit the paediatrician.
The doctor will examine the child or the infant and ask the parent about the symptoms. The doctor will they recommend few test including upper GI tract series and X-ray, endoscopy of esophagus and stomach, esophageal pH probe to test acid levels and a gastric emptying study.
Usually in infants the heartburn problem is over by the age of 1 year. Doctors usually suggest simple methods like thickening the baby formula and burping the infant by keeping it upright for 30 minutes after feeding.
Medications are effective in treating child and infant heartburns that does not improve on its own. These medicines reduce the amount of stomach acids and so there is less acid to back up into the esophagus.
You can also try certain simple methods to control frequent heartburns in children:
- Give your child smaller meals at set intervals rather than three full meals
- Do not allow your child have too much heartburn foods like chocolates, carbonated drinks, peppermint, citrus fruits including oranges and tomatoes
- Don’t allow your child to eat within two or three hours of bedtime
- Raise the head of your child while sleeping by putting some blocks of wood under the bedposts