The esophagus is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. If your child has reflux, his or her stomach contents come back up into the esophagus. Another name for reflux is gastroesophageal reflux (GER).
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is a more serious and long-lasting type of reflux. If your child has reflux more than twice a week for a few weeks, it could be GERD.
There is a muscle (the lower esophageal sphincter) that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach. When your child swallows, this muscle relaxes to let food pass from the esophagus to the stomach. This muscle normally stays closed, so the stomach contents don't flow back into the esophagus.
In children who have reflux and GERD, this muscle becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn't, and the stomach contents flow back into the esophagus. This can happen because of
Many children have occasional reflux. GERD is not as common; up to 25 percent of children have symptoms of GERD.
Your child might not even notice reflux. But some children taste food or stomach acid at the back of the mouth.
In children, GERD can cause
In most cases, a doctor diagnoses reflux by reviewing your child's symptoms and medical history. If the symptoms do not get better with lifestyle changes and anti-reflux medicines, your child may need testing to check for GERD or other problems.
Several tests can help a doctor diagnose GERD. Sometimes doctors order more than one test to get a diagnosis. Commonly-used tests include
Sometimes reflux and GERD in children can be treated with lifestyle changes:
If changes at home do not help enough, the doctor may recommend medicines to treat GERD. The medicines work by lowering the amount of acid in your child's stomach.
Some medicines for GERD in children are over-the-counter, and some are prescription medicines. They include
If these don't help and your child still has severe symptoms, then surgery might be an option. A pediatric gastroenterologist, a doctor who treats children who have digestive diseases, would do the surgery.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases