What Causes Acid Reflux in Babies and Children?
Similarly to adults, what causes acid reflux in children leads to stomach acid heading upward and into the esophagus. However, the symptoms are sometimes different or varying. For instance, vomiting regularly can occur in infants with acid reflux (or GERD) and, abdominal pain and stomach bloating is not unusual. Also refusing to eat, gagging or choking while eating are not uncommon acid reflux symptoms in babies, along with persistent crying during feedings. Older children may encounter similar symptoms as well as gas and heartburn in addition to general gastrointestinal upset. Typically, infants with GERD outgrow the condition by their first birthdays; however it does occur in older children as well.
What causes acid reflux tends to vary with age. For instance, in infants, there can be little more cause than simply an underdeveloped digestive system that will stabilize itself as it matures. It is also possible that some health conditions may be the culprits of acid reflux causes in infants, with problems with the nerves and muscles being potentially to blame. Sometimes, diet may play a role as well. Some babies are not as easily able to digest baby formula when compared to breast milk. Natural breast milk is digested quicker than commercial formula is and also contains helpful digestive enzymes. But, if breast milk is not an option (or is not practical perhaps because of a mother’s diet such as too much milk intake) then formula may be the only choice. Not all formulas are the same. It is possible for allergies to certain formulas to cause or exacerbate GERD. Since these allergies can be responsible for what causes acid reflux, a hypoallergenic formula substitute may be necessary.
Toddlers, those that fall between infants and children, may encounter acid reflux for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is diet including what they eat and drink and how. For instance, children that are inefficient chewers may be encountering more frequent bouts due to improperly chewed chunky food, and may need guidance in this area or a liquid or puree diet until symptoms lessen. Additionally, chocolate, spicy food, carbonated beverages, citrus fruits, fatty and fried foods as well as caffeine may also be responsible for recurrences of reflux.
Conversely, in older children, what causes acid reflux changes somewhat. It is not necessarily physiological in nature, rather often related to lifestyle. For instance, overeating and obesity can both contribute to GERD and its related symptoms in older children. Consumption of beverages or foods that cause acid reflux or trigger its symptoms are also commonly to blame in older children as well. Certain medications may also contribute to acid reflux as well as constipation. Often, in older children, symptoms present that are usually attributed to acid indigestion as opposed to GERD, although reflux is typically the underlying cause. Tummy aches, gas, a growling belly, pain in the abdomen and excessive bloating are common symptoms of indigestion related to acid reflux.
Treatment for mild cases of GERD normally begins at home. Since what causes acid reflux in toddlers and children is often related to diet and lifestyle, eliminating or reducing them from the diet or routine of an affected child is important. With a doctor’s okay, older children may benefit from over the counter medications or acid reflux home remedies like honey or lemon. In infants, offering frequent and smaller feedings as opposed to larger meals is best for babies with acid reflux. Position can also be another way to help reduce the recurrences and symptoms of reflux in infants. Since pillows and other bedding additions can be hazardous to small infants, raising the head of the crib slightly at a minimal incline can help reduce symptoms during sleep. It is also not uncommon for prescription medications to be considered for acid reflux in children, toddlers and infants. However, most of the time, changes to diet and lifestyle can successfully reduce what causes acid reflux and therefore decrease recurrences or eliminate the condition entirely. But in some cases, such as when physiological abnormalities are to blame or GERD is particularly severe, a surgery for acid reflux called anti-reflux surgery may be considered.
Sometimes, the symptoms of acid reflux may be mistaken for something else when occurring in children. It is not uncommon for the condition to be shrugged off as colic or simple indigestion. It is important to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of acid reflux in babies and children and if they present, to seek medical care. Developing a plan for reducing the symptoms of the condition with a health care provider can lead to more comfortable meal times and fewer headaches at bedtime from children who are not persistently uncomfortable.