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Holiday Tips for Children with GERD

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Updated December 04, 2007

Despite the delights holiday feasts can bring, for many children with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), this may not be a happy dining experience for them.

Avoiding foods that can trigger heartburn symptoms is important for the management of pediatric GERD, but it can be difficult because of the many rich traditional holiday foods served. Parents can still make holiday dining enjoyable for their children with the following tips.

  • Prepare alternatives to the rich, fatty dishes typical of the holiday season. These dishes should not include chocolate or acidic foods, such as tomatoes or tomato-based products.

  • Take breaks between the courses of holiday dinners. Slowing down the dining experience can help digestion, and keep children from over-stuffing themselves.

  • Have your children eat smaller, more frequent meals. A full stomach can put extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which will increase the chance that some of this food will reflux into the esophagus.

  • Ensure that children do not eat meals or treats too close to bedtime. Lying down with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the LES, increasing the chances of refluxed food.

  • Avoid foods such as carbonated drinks, chocolate, caffeine, and those that contain a lot of acid (citrus, pickles, tomato products) or spicy foods.

  • Avoid exposing children to tobacco smoke. The chemicals in cigarette smoke weaken the LES as they pass from the lungs into the blood.

  • Elevate the head of your child's bed 8 to 10 inches. Lying down flat presses the stomach's contents against the LES. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure.

  • Talk to your child's doctor to learn what treatment options are right for your child in case there is an episode of heartburn. These may include over-the-counter remedies or prescriptions medications.


Sources:

"Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)." NIH Publication No. 07–0882 May 2007. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. 28 Nov 2007.

"Gastroesophageal Reflux in Children and Adolescents." NIH Publication No. 06–5418 August 2006. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. 28 Nov 2007.

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