Acid Reflux Disease Can Cause Apnea in Some Patients

  • One of the issues associated with reflux that I rarely see mentioned is the issue of apnea. Whether it is glossed over as to not scare parents or whether it is infrequently mentioned because it is not as common as other symptoms I don't know. What I do know is that my daughter did have apnea associated with her acid reflux disease.


    The very first time I had left my daughter with a sitter was to help plan a memorial service for someone in my husband's family. We got a call at the funeral home that Ella had stopped breathing and was rushed to the emergency room. Thankfully the ER was just a couple of blocks from the funeral home so we got there quickly.

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    After checking out other causes for the issue the ER doctor decided that the apnea episode had occurred because of Ella's acid reflux disease. Apparently some infants, in an effort to protect their airway from regurgitated stomach contents, can stop breathing. While I had heard of this issue before I never imagined it would be my child next!


    If your child has acid reflux disease it does not mean that you will have this problem. Most children with reflux don't. However, if you have noticed that your child chokes quite frequently, has had episodes where they seem to be unable to catch their breath or has had issues with wheezing or pneumonias then it may be time to talk with your child's pedi or GI about apnea risk.


    In some instances medications like motility drugs can help prevent these episodes by emptying the stomach faster and thus protecting the airway. Some doctors might suggest the use of an apnea monitor which will alarm should your child stop breathing. In the past, elevating the head of the bed also helps but with recent recommendations from the FDA this should only be done with the consent of your physician.


    I didn't write this article to make you all panic but to urge you, if you see some of the signs of breathing issues, to seek your physicians advice immediately. Being proactive can be a lifesaver.

Published On: May 25, 2011