Understanding Reflux

What Is Reflux?

Reflux is a common problem that can plague adults. For an adult, the solution may be as simple as chewing a couple of rolaids. For more serious reflux, some adults turn to prescription medications.

But, what happens when a baby has reflux? While an adult knows what heartburn feels like and what to do about it, a baby can’t express those feelings. Some symptoms of reflux may include:
– Frequent spit-ups
– Difficulty swallowing
– Frequent burping and hiccuping
– Lack of weight gain
– A chronic cough
– Wheezing
– Recurrent pneumonia
– Bad breath
– Excessive cavities
– Nausea and vomiting
– Frequent inconsolable crying.
Not everyone who suffers from reflux will experience all of these symptoms. In addition, many of these symptoms can be associated with other problems. If your baby is experiencing these symptoms, it is best to contact your health care provider.

Reflux is caused when a “door” or sphincter from the esophagus to the stomach doesn’t close tightly. When this happens, stomach acid and food can splash back up into the esophagus. These things can burn the lining of the esophagus and can also irritate the lungs. Medically, reflux is referred to as Gastroesophageal Reflux or GER.

In most babies, this sphincter is fairly lax. This is why most babies spit up. This is normal, and expected. Over time, this sphincter becomes more effective at doing its job. In addition, children are eating more solid foods, and are more likely to be sitting up. This combination of events causes a reduction or elimination of spitting up. Generally, this occurs by around the age of 18 months.

If reflux lingers past the 18 month mark, it can be a sign of another problem. If this reflux is continual, it is referred to as pathologic reflux. There are medical and behavioral methods used to treat pathologic reflux, including:
– Changing feeding habits
– Changing posture habits
– Medications such as metoclopramide, which speeds the emptying of the contents of the stomach into the intestine.
– Other medications that work to reduce stomach acid.

If these treatments are not effective, there are surgical options available as well.