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What are the symptoms of GERD in infants?

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Updated February 13, 2012

Question: What are the symptoms of GERD in infants?
Answer: When stomach contents come back up, similar to burping, it's called reflux. This can be quite common in a baby's first 3 months of life. If your baby has any of the following symptoms, a doctor should be consulted, because these symptoms can signal GERD, or they can signal something else, like a food allergy. Severe, untreated GERD can lead to poor weight gain and frequent wheezing -- both of which can cause further problems for a baby, so it's important to seek treatment.
  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting
    More than half of all infants will spit up at some point during their first three months of life. This usually doesn't require treatment, and most babies will outgrow it. For some infants, however, this spitting up, or reflux, is severe and requires treatment. While every baby is different, one sign that your baby may be spitting up too much is poor weight gain.
  • Respiratory problems (such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, wheezing)
    Several studies suggest a significant link between GERD and asthma. GERD can affect asthma when refluxed acid from the stomach is aspirated into the lungs, and can make breathing difficult and cause the infant to wheeze and cough. This refluxed acid can cause other types of irritation in the lungs, leading to increased odds of pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • Irritability when feeding
    Irritability includes whining, crying, screaming, and fussiness, and can stem from the burning sensation and pain in the esophagus when formula and stomach acid is refluxed into the esophagus.
  • Refusing food or eating only small amounts
    Infants may refuse to eat if pain occurs when they swallow. This pain can be caused by the irritation when formula and stomach contents are refluxed back up into the esophagus.
  • "Wet" burps
    When a baby has a "wet" burp, a small amount of liquid is regurgitated as he or she burps.
  • Poor Sleep
    When we sleep, we produce more stomach acid, and we're often lying in flat positions that allow stomach acid to roll back up toward the esophagus. In babies, this can cause frequent waking.
  • Frequent coughing
    A frequent cough may occur if refluxed stomach acid is aspirated, irritating the airways. A cough may also occur when the stomach acid irritates the throat.

Sources:

"Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants." NIH Publication No. 06-5419 August 2006. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). 10 Dec 2009.

Marsha Kay, M.D., Vasundhara Tolia, M.D.. "COMMON GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS IN PEDIATRIC PATIENTS."; The American College of Gastroenterology. 10 Dec 2009.

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  5. Children and Acid Reflux
  6. Acid Reflux in Children - Symptoms
  7. Infant GERD - Symptoms of Infant GERD - Symptoms of GERD in Infants

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