Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Acid in the stomach and esophagus

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD) occurs when stomach acids back up into the esophagus. This is the tube that takes food from your throat to your stomach. GERD can happen in adults and older children when the area between the lower end of the esophagus and the stomach does not close tightly. It also can happen in infants. This occurs because their digestive tracts are still growing.

GERD can cause babies to vomit, cry, and act fussy. They may have trouble breastfeeding or taking a bottle. Older children may have the same symptoms as adults. They may cough a lot. And they may have a burning feeling in the chest and throat. Most often GERD is not a sign that there is a serious problem. It often goes away by the end of an infant's first year. Symptoms in older children may go away with home treatment or medicines.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Infants

  • Burp your baby several times during a feeding.
  • Hold your baby upright for 30 minutes after a feeding.

Older children

  • Raise the head of your child's bed 15 to 20 centimetres. You can do this by putting blocks under the frame. Or you can put a foam wedge under the head of the mattress.
  • Have your child eat smaller meals, more often.
  • Limit foods and drinks that seem to make your child's condition worse. These foods may include chocolate, spicy foods, and sodas that have caffeine. Other high-acid foods include oranges and tomatoes.
  • Try to feed your child at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. This helps avoid having a lot of acid in the stomach when your child lies down.
  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • Antacids such as children's versions of Rolaids or Tums may help. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter acid reducers, such as famotidine (Pepcid AC) or ranitidine (Zantac 75).

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's vomit is very forceful or yellow-green in colour.
  • Your child has signs of needing more fluids. These signs include sunken eyes with few tears, a dry mouth with little or no spit, and little or no urine for 6 hours.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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