GERD which is known as “gastroesophageal reflux disease” can be the reason of gastric problems in infants when most of them occasionally spit up throughout the day. The main reason why GERD occurs in infants is because of the lower esophageal sphincter, when it is not fully developed in baby children. This is the muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach.
Generally this spitting happens when the sphincter muscle is still developing. This scenario pushes the stomach contents back upwards. This causes Regurgitation which is the expulsion of material from the mouth, pharynx, or esophagus. This is usually characterized by the presence of undigested food or blood.
The most common symptoms of Acid Reflux in Infants and Children are:
- Frequent or recurrent vomiting.
- Frequent or persistent cough.
- Refusing to eat or difficulty eating (choking or gagging with feeding).
- Crying with feeding.
- Heartburn, gas, or abdominal pain.
- gagging or trouble swallowing
- pneumonia or trouble breathing
- irritability, particularly after feedings
- arching of the back—often during or immediately after feedings
- poor feeding or refusal to feed
- poor weight gain or weight loss
- poor growth and malnutrition
Parent should consult a pediatrician or health consultant if their infant(s) have any of the following problems.
- vomits large amounts or has persistent projectile, or forceful, vomiting, particularly in infants younger than 2 months
- vomits fluid that is green or yellow, looks like coffee grounds, or contains blood
- has difficulty breathing after vomiting or spitting up
- refuses feedings repeatedly, resulting in poor weight gain or weight loss
- cries excessively and is extremely irritable
- shows signs of dehydration, such as dry diapers or no tears when crying
How Gastric Problems in Infants are Diagnosed?
If an infant appears healthy, has good growth and have symptoms like the above for GERD, the infant doesn’t need any tests or treatment. Usually feeding changes can often reduce the symptoms.
Sometimes a pediatrician may order some tests to diagnose whether the infant’s symptoms are related to GERD or any other medical condition and require any medication or not. If the pediatrician feels that the infant is suspected with GERD, he sometimes ask you to consult a pediatric gastroenterologist. He is a doctor who specializes in children’s digestive disorders and is referred to diagnosis and treatment for gastric problems in infants.
What are the Common Tests performed on Infants with suspected GERD?
There is not a complete accurate test for diagnosing GERD in infants. However several tests can help diagnose the gastric problem in infants.
The following are the tests which are generally performed in infants in order to find if the infant is suspected with GERD.
- Upper GI series
- Upper endoscopy
- Esophageal pH monitoring
Upper GI series test is recommended by a pediatric gastroenterologist in order to exclude the possibility of a congenital abnormality of the upper GI tract.
Upper endoscopy also known as “esophagogastroduodenoscopy” is generally performed when the pediatric gastroenterologist feels that the infant is continuing to have GERD symptoms despite feeding changes and not responding to medications.
Esophageal pH monitoring is a very accurate test for acid reflux. This test is done to measure the amount of liquid or acid in the esophagus and is generally performed by pediatric gastroenterologist at a hospital as a part of an upper endoscopy.
Sometimes the GERD problems in infants reduce by themselves and are not of much worry. Usually changing the feeding pattern and the diet can reduce these symptoms. But if you find that normal home remedies are not giving comfort to the child, it’s better to consult a doctor.