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Understanding Acid Reflux In Infants



Infant acid reflux is a health condition that affects up to 25% of babies. It is characterized by spit outs of stomach contents especially after feeding. It occurs when the stomach contents back up to the mouth and/or esophagus.

How Does it Occur?

When an infant is fed, food is carried through the esophagus from the mouth. Biological sciences reveal that the esophagus is made up of muscle layers and tissues that constantly relax and contract to ensure that food substances are propelled to the stomach.

Located in the region where the stomach joins the esophagus, there is a circular ring of muscle that is identified as the lower-esophageal sphincter (LES). As food reach the LES, this circular ring of muscle will automatically relax to allow the entrance of food into the stomach. Once the food is in the stomach, the muscle contracts so that no back up of food can occur.

The reason why acid reflux occurs is that the lower esophageal sphincter does not completely close. Its failure to completely close allows the liquids in the stomach to wash back to the esophagus thus resulting in acid reflux. It should be remembered that most of the acid reflux episodes go unrealized because the liquids stay in the lower esophagus.

Why is this Condition Common in Infants and not Adults?

Adults do not normally experience this complication because as people grow, the angle of the stomach and esophagus changes.

Is this Condition Harmful to my Baby?

This is a normal process that occurs even in healthy kids. A good number of infants will experience brief episodes where they will spit up the food through the nose or mouth. Reflux that is not complicated will not bother your baby since it is less likely to cause serious complications. On the other hand, it is important to note that frequent reflux may result in serious complications. For instance, if the reflux causes injury and irritation to the esophagus, a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease will develop.

This, however, occurs in a small percentage of infants. The number of reflux that is enough to warrant the disease will vary from kid to kid. Generally, damages to the esophagus are most likely to occur if the frequency of the spit-ups is intense. In addition, large amounts of reflux and the inability of the esophagus to clear the backups are some of the factors that will aggravate the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

How will I notice if my baby has developed the gastroesophageal reflux disease?

There are some hints that will enable you to tell if your child has developed the disease. Here is a list of the common symptoms of the gastroesophageal reflux disease

  • Refusal by the infant to eat.
  • The child will arch the neck as if he/she is in pain.
  • The child will chock while spitting up
  • The child coughs frequently

There are other mechanisms that can be used to diagnose the disease e.g. lab testing and x-ray experiments.

Can this condition be treated?

Infants who have developed uncomplicated reflux do not require any treatment. If it is a complicated one, attention should be given.

Tips on how to treat a reflux

  • Give a milk-free diet
  • Position the infant in an upright and calm state for up to 20 minutes.
  • There are reflux machines that can be used to respond to the condition. It is advisable to visit your nearest medical center for assistance.

In general, acid reflux should not be taken for granted. If your baby develops this condition, it is advisable to seek help from qualified physicians.