Acid Reflux: Banish Back to School Burn

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

It’s that time of year again.

By the time this post goes live, my girls will only have a couple of weeks until they are back in school again. So long, summer break. If you have a child with acid reflux, now is the perfect time to do a little planning to make the upcoming school year burn-free.

Check out these tips to keep your little one happy and healthy all school year.** Schedule any GI or well-check appointments now**

Once the school year starts (and all of the outside activities also resume), it can become really difficult to coordinate an appointment with the GI. Scheduling an appointment during the summer can help you catch the start of any flare up, adjust medications based on your child’s growth (as needed) and develop a plan to prevent future flare ups. This is also a great time to get any signatures you may need from the GI in order to allow your child to have medications at school or any other accommodations.

Keep up with medications

Check your child’s acid reflux medications and weed out any that are expired. Check to see whether they need to be refilled, and be sure to have enough on hand for home and school.

Fill out a medical plan with the school nurseYou may think that your child does not need a medical plan for acid reflux, but let me encourage you to explore this helpful option. A medical plan can alert teachers to any foods that might trigger your child’s reflux, allows the cafeteria to make substitutions so that your child can eat a school lunch without a reflux flare up. It also makes it possible to give your child rescue medications, such as antacids, at school. Talk with your school nurse to see what information should be on file, from you and your child’s physician.

Have medications available at schoolOnce you have paperwork on file with the school to allow your child to have medications there, you need to determine what to send. In my opinion it is best to have not only a rescue antacid but your child’s primary medication (usually a PPI or H2 blocker). That way if you happen to forget your child’s daily medication in the morning rush, you can call the school nurse to get your child’s medication to them promptly. Otherwise you might end up leaving work to go home and get the medicine to take to the school. Trust me: that’s a huge pain Plan bathroom breaks with your child’s teacher.

Talking with your child’s teachers and helping them to understand reflux can be key in getting proper care at school. If the teacher knows that your child might need more bathroom breaks (instead of thinking your child’s frequent breaks are an attempt to get out of class) it can eliminate any confusion. You can also plan ahead to develop a code or procedure to follow so your student can use the restroom without drawing tons of attention or disrupting the classroom.

Slow down the lunchtime meals

One of the biggest problems we had when my second reflux baby started kindergarten was how quickly students were required to eat their meals. Those “shovel in the food” sessions quickly aggravated her reflux and she would end up being sick in class right after lunch. Once we talked with the school, it was able to allow her ten extra minutes to eat. It made a huge difference in her digestion. You may need a note from the doctor in order to make these changes. Check with the school principal or nurse for information on what paperwork you need.

Pack reflux-friendly lunches and snacksIf you child is not going to be eating in the cafeteria you will need to plan some reflux-friendly school lunches that avoid trigger foods. As a dietitian I find it extremely important to include one fruit and one veggie in every lunch. They provide numerous vitamins and minerals as well as added fiber which can help things move through the GI tract and prevent constipation. Here are some of my children's favorite things to pack in their lunches:

Reflux friendly fruits:

  • Apples

  • Pears

  • Peaches

  • Plums

  • Grapes

  • Melon

  • Berries

  • Banana

  • Apricots

Reflux friendly veggies:

  • Sugar snap peas

  • Snow peas

  • Carrots

  • Celery

  • Broccoli (only if it doesn't trigger painful gas for your child).

  • Cauliflower (only if it doesn't trigger painful gas for your child).

Protein sources:

  • Sliced lean meats (can be used in sandwiches, wraps or rolled on its own).

  • Low fat cheese

  • Low fat Greek yogurt (the probiotics in yogurt are an added bonus for GI health).

Whole grains:

  • Whole grain bread

  • Whole grain crackers

Don’t forget a drink! We prefer water.

Hopefully these tips will help your child negotiate school without pain. Have any additional tips? Leave them in the comment section below!

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.