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Pediatric Gastroenterology - GERD

​​​​​​​​​Gastroesophageal reflux disease is also known as "acid indigestion" or "heartburn." 

It happens when stomach contents flow back up (reflux) into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach). 

GERD can irritate the esophagus and cause problems with swallowing or breathing. In severe cases, GERD can cause recurrent pneumonia or other serious problems. 

A Marshfield Clinic specialist can evaluate each child's situation and offer the best plan for treatment.

Treatments (for newborns)

Dietary changes

  • This may include feeding smaller amounts more often, and burping more often during feedings. In other cases, allowing more time between feedings may help.
  • Propping the baby up after feeding. For 30 minutes after feeding, the baby is positioned with the head higher than the stomach.

Medications can be prescribed to decrease the acidity of the stomach. This keeps the stomach acids from damaging the esophagus. Other medications may be used to speed up digestion, so food passes out of the stomach quicker.

In severe cases, a surgery called fundoplication may be performed. This creates an artificial valve at the top of the stomach. Part of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus and secured with sutures. When the stomach is relaxed and empty, food can pass through. When the stomach is full, pressure closes the valve.

Treatments (for children)

Treatment depends on the child's age and the severity of the symptoms. In many cases, the changes in lifestyle and eating habits will be enough to relieve symptoms. In certain cases, medications may be prescribed to help reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. Rarely, surgery may be recommended for severe symptoms that don't respond to treatment.

Lifestyle and Dietary Changes
To help prevent or lessen GERD symptoms:

  • Have your child eat smaller but more frequent meals.
  • Make sure your child eats no sooner than 3 hours before going to bed.
  • Have the child avoid lying down or reclining for 2 hours after meals.
  • Avoid food and drink that can make GERD worse like chocolate, peppermint, carbonated drinks, and drinks containing caffeine. Also avoid acidic foods like citrus fruits and juices, and tomatoes as well as high-fat foods like french fries, fast food, and pizza.
  • Elevate the head of the child's bed 5 inches to help prevent reflux at night.
  • Make sure your child's clothing is loose and comfortable, especially around the waist.
  • Help your child lose weight if he or she is overweight.
  • Keep tobacco smoke away from the child.
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