Acid Reflux In Children Can Be A Drag
Many people think of acid reflux as being a condition that affects only adults. But in reality, acid reflux can also affect children, and even infants. Just as in adults, chronic acid reflux can cause a host of problems, including sore throat, hoarseness, and erosion of the lower portion of the esophagus. In children and infants, there is also an increased risk of pneumonia and bronchitis, which may occur when refluxed acid is aspirated, or inhaled, into the airway and lungs.
Children may experience many of the same symptoms as adults, but because they may not be able to effectively describe what they are feeling, and also because many people do not realize that acid reflux can occur in children as well as adults, the signs and symptoms of the condition may often be overlooked.
In addition to complaints of pain, aching, or burning in the chest, throat or upper stomach area, some children may also react to acid reflux by becoming picky eaters. In some cases when the discomfort is especially pronounced, children may refuse their meals entirely. As with infants, the pain of acid reflux can become indelibly linked with mealtimes, causing children to become reluctant to eat. Refusing to eat specific foods may also result, if those foods cause acid reflux to occur. While the child may not specifically link the consumption of a particular food with the occurrence of acid reflux, picky eating is a warning sign that parents should be aware of.
Hoarseness, coughing, and sore throat can also be signs of acid reflux, particularly when these symptoms are chronic and are not associated with an illness, such as a cold or respiratory infection. As acid washes up and over the esophagus and into the upper throat, the irritation produced by the stomach acid can cause these symptoms to occur. In children with known asthma, persistent cough may often be considered to be attributable to that condition, when in fact it may be caused or exacerbated by acid reflux.
A few children and infants may also exhibit drooling, which can develop when regular, consistent swallowing becomes painful as a result of acid reflux and its effects.
Just as with adults, children may also experience an increase in acid reflux symptoms during sleep, when the head and upper airway portion of the body are not elevated enough to keep stomach acid in the stomach. In a prone position, and especially when the body’s muscles become relaxed during sleep, stomach acid may flow upward into the lower esophagus and even into the upper throat, where it can cause pain, burning, and cough which can disrupt sleep.
When left untreated, chronic acid reflux can even result in respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
If your pediatrician diagnoses acid reflux in your child, he or she may first prescribe use of over-the-counter products such as antacids, H-2 acid blockers, or proton pump inhibitors. These agents work by either neutralizing stomach acid or by reducing the production of that acid.
You may also be advised to alter your child’s eating patterns, offering smaller meals at more frequent intervals. Your doctor may also recommend that the child’s head and upper chest be elevated at an angle while sleeping to allow gravity to help keep stomach acids from flowing upward.
The doctor may also prescribe tests to make sure that there are no underlying conditions causing acid reflux to occur. These tests may include blood and urine tests, as well as diagnostic tests including an upper endoscopy or pH monitoring of the esophagus.
In both of these tests, a thin, flexible tube is passed into the esophagus. During an endoscopy, the tube is used to transmit images of the interior of the esophagus so that the physician may determine the extent of any damage that has occurred to the esophageal lining. The physician can also use the images to view the lower esophageal valve and rule out any problems that may be causing it to malfunction and allow acid to reflux.
The pH monitoring test uses a similar probe, but includes a built-in sensor which monitors the pH level, or acidity, of the esophagus, as well as of the acid that is being refluxed.