Are there times when it feels like it is impossible to get your child to eat anything, much less something healthy? When should you be concerned that something, besides being a picky eater, is causing food avoidance?
What Is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly referred to as GERD, may be the cause of GI and eating problems in some children. GERD is commonly thought to be a disease that an older person would have, but it is actually common in children. GERD is caused by lack of muscle strength to control the sphincter that connects the esophagus to the stomach which allows stomach acid to creep out of the stomach causing pain and other symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms?
Babies that are born prematurely and spend most of the day lying down are at risk for GERD. The most common symptoms of GERD in babies are frequently spitting up and problems sleeping. You can start with simple changes like elevating the head of the crib at night which will allow gravity to keep the stomach contents in the stomach, and holding the baby upright for 30 minutes following meal times.
For children GERD symptoms present a little differently. Children may refuse to eat, have trouble gaining weight, projectile vomit, or have blood in vomit or stool. Similarly to babies, it will help a child’s GERD symptoms to sleep with the head of bed slightly elevated and stay sitting up following meals. Children should try eating several meals throughout the day, while making sure not to overeat, and avoid spicy, greasy foods as well as caffeine and carbonation.
How Can I Help My Child?
Often lifestyle and dietary changes will greatly improve your child’s symptoms, but you should still talk with your doctor to see if additional treatment should be given. Your child may need to take medications to control symptoms and prevent any future damage. Your doctor may suggest a medicine to decrease acid production in the stomach or other supportive medications. Most children will outgrow reflux, but if your child has persistent problems it is important to continue to follow up with a doctor.