Confusing Lingo: Does My Baby have Reflux or GERD?
Parents and caregivers are often confused about the different lingo used to describe their little baby with “reflux”. It seems like medicine is full of long, hard to pronounce words and Gastroesophageal Reflux (pronounced gas-tro e-sof-a-ghee-l re-fluks) is just one more example. Doctors diagnose G astroe sophageal R eflux or GER if the baby has frequent spit up, burping, hiccups and occasional vomiting.
Parents and doctors may also use the term “infant reflux” or even “physiologic reflux” to describe this common condition. If your baby is fussy and has frequent spit up and digestive discomfort such as gas or fussiness after a feeding, the doctor may even refer to gastroesophageal reflux as “colic”. The drug manufacturers and the popular press have coined the term, “Acid Reflux” so you might see information in ads or on the internet about “infant acid reflux”.
To summarize, a baby with spit up, burping, hiccups and occasional vomiting has Gastroesophageal Reflux also known as:
Infant Acid Reflux
Are you with me so far? Now the terminology gets tricky when we talk about Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Many people use the term GERD, short for G astroe sophageal R eflux D isease. In reality, most babies have GER. GERD refers to a less common and more serious condition characterized by a worrisome pattern of reflux episodes, vomiting and pain causing complications such as damage to the food pipe or esophagus, respiratory problems and poor growth.
To summarize, a baby with symptoms of GER (spit up, burping, hiccups and vomiting) and additional complications such as respiratory problems, poor growth and irritation to the esophagus has Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease also known as:
Acid Reflux Disease
Infant Acid Reflux
Now you will notice that both GER and GERD are referred to as “reflux” or acid reflux. Sometimes the term Acid Reflux is used to describe both GER and GERD. Yet there is a huge difference between the two. When I am talking to another parent, I tend to use “reflux” as a shorthand to describe both GER and GERD. However, if I am talking to the doctor, I use medical terminology: GER and GERD.
Advanced Lingo: When you have been talking about reflux for as long as I have (15 years and counting...) I tend to use even more shorthand but only when I am talking to another parent. I have called my kids with reflux “refluxer” “reflux baby” or “gerdling”. I have even heard someone use “gerdolescent” to describe their teen with reflux. I am not sure where all of these terms originated but they seem friendlier and less medical sounding to me. The bottom line is, when I describe my kids with reflux, I first describe them as smart, beautiful and fun. They give me great joy and make me laugh each day. I just wish their digestive systems were as smart and fun!