Treating Acid Reflux in Children: Should Parents Self-Medicate?
In my previous blog we discussed why parents self-medicate their infants or children with acid reflux disease. If you are one of those parents, I challenge you to rethink your stance on this issue. There are many reasons that self-medicating your child can be dangerous to their health.
Infants and children with acid reflux are not just little adults. The way acid reflux affects an infant can be very different from the way the disease presents in an adult. When you medicate the pain away without proper physician supervision, you run the risk of masking more serious issues. Diseases like pyloric stenosis, inflammatory bowel disease, hiatal hernia, eosinophilic esophagitis, food allergies or intolerance, liver and galbladder disease can all mimic acid reflux symptoms but are each treated much differently. Covering the symptoms with medication can delay proper treatment.
When you self-medicate your child, it prevents their physician from monitoring the situation adequately. Your child's physician needs to know both the medication and the dosage being taken. Many physicians need to monitor labs, like liver function or specific minerals, to ensure the medication's safety. Not doing these things has the potential to lead to more serious issues down the road.
Preventing medication interactions becomes impossible if your child's doctor doesn't know what medications they are on. There are several medications that have the potential to interact with acid reflux medicines. Some of these include antacids, antibiotics, thyroid medications and vitamin or mineral supplements. In some cases the acid reflux medication may even prevent other medications from working properly. If your doctor knows what medications your child is on, they can provide appropriate dosing instructions or alter their treatment to work with their acid reflux medications.
Unfortunately, there are good parents who find themselves self-medicating their infant. In extreme instances this can even result in physicians filing a report with child protective services. You definitely don't want to be on the receiving end of that kind of situation.
Be honest with your child's doctor if they have symptoms of acid reflux. If the current treatment is not working, let the doctor know so they can develop a better plan of action. Sometimes parents can feel like their child's doctor isn't taking the problem seriously enough. If that is the case, then it may be time to seek a second opinion or find a physician you can better work with.
If money is your issue, contact a local children's hospital or work out a payment plan with your current hospital. Many hospitals have funds set aside to pay when parents can't. You can also ask about payment plans instead of paying in a lump sum.
Whatever your reasoning, please do not self-medicate. There are just too many reasons to leave this dosing up to your child's physician.