If your child has been diagnosed with acid reflux, it may be necessary to build a health care team that includes more than just your child’s pediatrician. Here are three specialists who should be part of that team.
A gastroenterologist, also known as a GI doctor, is a physician with training in the management of disorders of the gastrointestinal track and liver. A gastroenterologist has special experience with the esophagus and stomach, which could make him a key member of your child’s health care team. Acid reflux can be a complicated disorder and can manifest differently in individual children. A gastroenterologist has likely seen many acid reflux cases and may be better positioned than a pediatrician to recognize the more unusual signs and symptoms.
Ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT)
Not long ago, acid reflux was known as just a stomach problem. Now, it is understood that stomach contents can be refluxed all the way into the ears, nose and throat, causing problems beyond the stomach and esophagus. Frequent ear infections, sinus infections, and changes to the adenoids can be related to acid reflux. An otolaryngologist — also known as an ear, nose, and throat doctor or ENT — will be familiar with the issues beyond the esophagus that reflux can cause.
Some disorders can mimic the signs and symptoms of acid reflux disease, but are more closely related to allergic conditions than digestive disorders. For example, eosinophilic esophagitis is a recognized allergic condition that can be mistaken for acid reflux disease. Environmental allergens can also be related to acid reflux. Allergens can increase post-nasal drip, which can then increase acid reflux symptoms. Involving an allergist in your child’s care may provide a different and valuable perspective and approach to treatment.
Contacting a specialist
When you call to set up an appointment, be sure to ask any potential specialist if they see children in their practice. You may also need a referral from your general practitioner or pediatrician for specialist care, depending on your insurance coverage. Some specialists are booked four or six months in advance, so if you decide to add a specialist to your child’s health care team, call for an appointment as soon as possible.
Dr. Tracy Davenport is a health writer, advocate and entrepreneur who has been helping individuals live their best life. She is co-author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux. Follow Tracy’s love of smoothies on Twitter.