Gastroesophageal Reflux (GE Reflux)

What is gastroesophageal reflux?

When digestive acids from the stomach back up or reflux back up the food pipe ( esophagus ) causing heartburn ( acid reflux ) it's called gastroesophageal reflux. Reflux commonly occurs in healthy infants and children. Recurrent heartburn can irritate the food pipe- this complications of reflux is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

What causes gastroesophageal reflux?

In infants, reflux occurs because the ring of muscles separating the stomach from the esophagus doesn’t close all the way because the mechanism is immature; in older children it occurs when the muscles relax or when pressure builds up in the stomach. Reflux can be exacerbated by the position of the infant /child’s body after a meal, the size of the meal and whether the foods eaten are irritants or weaken the muscles.

What are the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux?

Often there are no symptoms. Infants may be fussy/crying during feeding or afterwards, they may have recurrent cough, may wheeze and/or have episodes of pneumonia. Older children complain primarily of a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), belly pain, trouble swallowing, sore throat, coughing or vomiting.

What are gastroesophageal reflux care options?

Infants frequently grow out of GER by 1year of life; however to manage GER, feeds may be thickened, the baby may be held upright after feeding and if necessary medications may be prescribed. Older children might benefit having smaller meals more often ,regularly exercise, lose weight, diet modification, not lying down after a meal and/or using several medications which are available to treat gastroesophageal reflux.

This page was last updated on: 17/04/2017 4:22:00 p. m.

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Dr. Peters is employed by Pediatric Specialists of America (PSA), the physician-led group practice of Miami Children’s Health System. He sees patients at the Nicklaus Children's Palm Beach Gardens Outpatient Center and is the PSA Northern Regional Chief, Section of Gastroenterology.