Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) is a common condition from infancy to adulthood. However, there are significant differences in the symptoms and treatments depending on the age of the patient.
This week, I am beginning a three part series on Gastroesophageal Reflux from infancy to adulthood.
Note: The information in this blog is for informational purposes only. Report all symptoms to the doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
Part One of a Three Part Series: Infants and Toddlers
First, it is important define two separate but related conditions: Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) is a normal physiological event characterized by the sensation of food coming up the esophagus in the form of a wet burp. Infants have GER after eating a large meal, ingesting air or eating too fast. On the other hand, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is the abnormal backwashing of stomach contents and acid into the esophagus causing complications.
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) is very common in infancy, affecting as many as one in 20 infants. A much smaller percentage of infants and toddlers have GERD with estimates ranging from 3-5% of children in the United States.
Common Symptoms: GER
Babies and spit up seem to go hand in hand. That is because the vast majority of healthy babies have Gastroesophageal Reflux or GER.
Infant GER is characterized by:
o frequent spit up
Some babies with GER spit up or vomit after each meal while others spit up when you least expect it, such as when you are dressed to go out!
Common Symptoms: GERD
Infant GERD is characterized by a worrisome pattern of reflux episodes (food and stomach contents backwashing into the esophagus), vomiting and pain causing complications.
Symptoms may include:
o Irritation to the esophagus (esophagitis)
o Poor weight gain or weight loss
o Poor sleep
o Respiratory problems
Some babies seem to have digestive problems from the first feeding while other babies become more irritable and uncomfortable in the first weeks of life. Many parents tell me they have a gut feeling that something is wrong with their baby when they fuss all day and sleep poorly at night. It is important to share your concerns and observations with the doctor.
My daughter Rebecca didn't eat or sleep like my other children from the newborn period. Even though she wasn't diagnosed with reflux until she was older, I knew something was wrong. I kept asking the doctor why she wasn't getting better. It was a relief to have a diagnosis and to start treating her symptoms.
Other babies may be more like Nathan: Nathan was born pink and healthy at 7 pounds, 4 ounces. He nursed well during the first two weeks, but by the third week he started fussing during and after feeding, vomited 4 to 8 times a day and needed to be held constantly. His weight was poor. Nathan's mom was stressed dealing with Nathan and caring for his 3-year-old brother. At Nathan's check up, the doctor gave his mother home care instructions and told her to return in two weeks for a weight check.