How does childhood reflux occur?
How reflux occurs in children Open the popup dialog
Reflux in infants occurs when a baby coughs when food comes out of the baby’s stomach. Reflux occurs several times a day in healthy infants. As long as your baby is healthy, happy, and growing well, reflux is not a problem.
Sometimes referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the disease is rarely severe and becomes less common as the baby ages. It is uncommon for reflux to persist in infants after they are 18 months old.
In rare cases, reflux in children can be associated with worrying symptoms such as stunted growth or weight loss. These could indicate a medical problem such as an allergy, a blockage in the digestive system, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Reflux in children is usually not a cause for concern. It is unusual for the contents of the stomach to contain enough acid to irritate the throat or esophagus and cause signs and symptoms.
In infants, the muscle ring between the esophagus and stomach – the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – is not yet fully developed. This can increase the stomach contents. After all, the SOI doesn’t open until your baby swallows and stays securely closed at other times, keeping the stomach contents in place.
Factors that contribute to reflux in infants are common in babies and often cannot be avoided. These factors include:
Lie flat most of the time
Take an almost completely liquid diet
To be born early
Sometimes reflux in infants can be caused by more serious medical conditions, such as:
GERD. Reflux contains enough acid to irritate and damage the lining of the esophagus.
Pyloric stenosis. A valve between the stomach and small intestine is narrowed, which prevents the stomach contents from flowing into the small intestine.
Food intolerance. A protein in cow’s milk is the most common trigger.
Eosinophilic esophagitis. A type of white blood cell (eosinophil) builds up and damages the lining of the esophagus.
Sandifer Syndrome. This abnormal tilt and rotation of the head causes movements that resemble seizures. It’s a rarely seen episode of GERD.