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Symptoms of GERD in Teens

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Updated March 03, 2008

Because of the increasing consumption of fast food and ever-expanding waistlines among teens, GERD is becoming an increasing problem in teenagers. If your teenager experiences any of the following symptoms, medical attention is needed.

Burning sensation in the chest
A burning sensation can begin behind the breastbone, and can also radiate to the back. This burning sensation can last from a few minutes to hours.

A burning feeling in the throat
This is a sensation of burning, usually high up in the neck though it can occur lower. The pain may worsen with swallowing. This burning sensation can result from irritation when stomach contents have refluxed up into the throat.

Sour or bitter taste in the mouth
A sour or bitter taste can occur when stomach contents reflux up into the esophagus and may reach the back of the throat. When the contents enter the back of the throat, a person will often have a sour or bitter taste in their mouth.

A sore, raw throat, especially upon waking in the mornings
A sore throat can be caused by the irritation that can occur when stomach contents that have refluxed up into the throat. This irritation may be worse first thing in the morning, because during sleep an individual swallows less often, and the stomach acid may remain longer in the throat.

Hoarseness
Irritation caused by refluxed stomach acid into the throat can lead to hoarseness.

Trouble swallowing, feeling like food is stuck in the throat
Trouble with swallowing (dysphagia) occurs when food does not pass normally from the mouth through the esophagus to the stomach. There may be a sensation of food sticking in the throat, chest pressure or "burning" after eating, or a feeling of choking. Difficulty swallowing could be a sign of various conditions, including erosive esophagitis, and should always be evaluated by a physician.

Respiratory problems (such as bronchitis, wheezing, asthma)
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 teenager to wheeze and cough. This refluxed acid can cause other types of irritation in the lungs, leading to increased odds of pneumonia and bronchitis.

Nagging dry cough
A frequent dry cough may occur if refluxed stomach acid is aspirated, which can irritate the airways; refluxed stomach acid itself can also irritate the throat.

Sources:
Marsha Kay, M.D., Vasundhara Tolia, M.D.. "COMMON GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS IN PEDIATRIC PATIENTS."; The American College of Gastroenterology. 2 Mar 2008

"Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)." NIH Publication No. 07–0882 May 2007. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Accessed on 2 Mar 2008.

Brian Pace, MA, Richard M. Glass, MD. "Gastroesophageal Reflux in Children." JAMA, July 19, 2000---Vol 284, No. 3. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 2 Mar 2008.

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