Acid reflux is a condition that is more common in older individuals, but it can also affect children and teens for a number of reasons. If your child is complaining of a sore throat or is in discomfort after eating, you may want to bring them in to have them examined by an endocrine specialist like Dr. Koeplin. Below, we take a closer look at some of the common causes of pediatric acid reflux, and we share some treatment strategies.
Causes and Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Children
Here’s a look at some of the risk factors associated with acid reflux or with a weakened esophageal sphincter in children.
- A family history of acid reflux
- Being overweight or obese can put increased pressure on the abdomen
- Developmental delays or weakened muscle tone in the esophageal sphincter
- Certain neurological disorders
- The onset of a hiatal hernia
- Prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke
- Certain medications
If your child has a weakened esophageal sphincter, the valve may allow stomach acid back up into the esophageal canal. This acid can erode or irritate the healthy tissue, causing pain and other problems. Symptoms of pediatric acid reflux vary based on the age of your child, but they include being fussy after meals, heartburn, bad breath, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, a sour taste in the mouth, coughing fits, hoarseness or voice changes not associated with puberty.
Diagnosing and Treating Pediatric Acid Reflux
If your child is complaining of some of the above symptoms, take them into a doctor. After learning about their symptoms and family history, the doctor may prescribe some small lifestyle changes, like diet changes or medications, or they may wish to conduct further tests. These tests are minimally invasive and will help to examine a number of different factors like the strength of their esophageal sphincter, how much acid makes its way back up and how frequently this occurs. All of these diagnostic techniques help doctors to get a full understanding of what treatment techniques might work best.
Treatment is usually conservative in nature, and it tends to focus on lifestyle and diet adjustments. Things like spicy foods, caffeinated sodas, fatty foods and large meals can all increase your risk of acid reflux, so being mindful of your diet choices can reduce the amount of acid reflux attacks. Other modifications include not eating before bed (standing up after meals allows gravity to help keep acid from coming back up), losing weight and avoiding secondhand smoke all can help end or greatly reduce acid reflux flare ups.
If those methods don’t work, doctors will typically try certain medications to either help empty the stomach or neutralize the stomach acid so it’s not as harmful if it continues to make its way back up the esophageal canal. If all those conservative methods fail, a minimally invasive surgery to strengthen the esophageal sphincter may be required. This surgery has high success rates, but it is viewed as a last resort.