Disease: Infant reflux

Overview

Infant reflux occurs when food backs up (refluxes) from a baby's stomach, causing the baby to spit up. Sometimes called gastroesophageal reflux (GER), the condition is rarely serious and becomes less common as a baby gets older. It's unusual for infant reflux to continue after age 18 months.

Reflux occurs in healthy infants multiple times a day. As long as your baby is healthy, content and growing well, the reflux is not a cause for concern.

Rarely, infant reflux can be a sign of a medical problem, such as an allergy, a blockage in the digestive system or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Symptoms

Infant reflux generally isn't a cause for concern. It's very unusual for the stomach contents to have enough acid to irritate the throat or esophagus and to cause signs and symptoms.

When to see a doctor

See your baby's doctor if your baby:

  • Isn't gaining weight
  • Consistently spits up forcefully, causing stomach contents to shoot out of his or her mouth (projectile vomiting)
  • Spits up green or yellow fluid
  • Spits up blood or a material that looks like coffee grounds
  • Refuses food
  • Has blood in his or her stool
  • Has difficulty breathing or a chronic cough
  • Begins spitting up at age 6 months or older
  • Is unusually irritable after eating

Some of these signs can indicate possibly serious but treatable conditions, such as GERD or a blockage in the digestive tract.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Causes

In infants, the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach — the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) — is not yet fully mature. That allows stomach contents to flow backward. Eventually, the LES will open only when your baby swallows and will remain tightly closed at other times, keeping stomach contents where they belong.

The factors that contribute to infant reflux are common in babies and often can't be avoided. These factors include:

  • Babies lying flat most of the time
  • An almost completely liquid diet
  • Babies being born prematurely

Occasionally, infant reflux can be caused by more-serious conditions, such as:

  • GERD. The reflux has enough acid to irritate and damage the lining of the esophagus.
  • Pyloric stenosis. A valve between the stomach and the small intestine is narrowed, preventing stomach contents from emptying into the small intestine.
  • Food intolerance. A protein in cow's milk is the most common trigger.
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis. A certain type of white blood cell (eosinophil) builds up and injures the lining of the esophagus.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Diagnosis

Your doctor will start with a physical exam and questions about your baby's symptoms. If your baby is healthy, growing as expected and seems content, then further testing usually isn't needed.

If further testing is needed, your doctor might recommend:

  • Ultrasound. This imaging test can detect pyloric stenosis.
  • Lab tests. Blood and urine tests can help identify or rule out possible causes of recurring vomiting and poor weight gain.
  • Esophageal pH monitoring. To measure the acidity in your baby's esophagus, the doctor will insert a thin tube through the baby's nose or mouth and into the esophagus. The tube is attached to a device that monitors acidity. Your baby might need to stay in the hospital while being monitored.
  • X-rays. These images can detect abnormalities in the digestive tract, such as an obstruction. Your baby may be given a contrast liquid (barium) from a bottle before the test.
  • Upper endoscopy. A special tube equipped with a camera lens and light (endoscope) is passed through your baby's mouth and into the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine. Tissue samples may be taken for analysis. For infants and children, endoscopy is usually done under general anesthesia.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Complications

Infant reflux usually clears up by itself without causing problems for your baby.

If your baby has a more-serious condition such as GERD, he or she might show signs of poor growth. Some research indicates that babies who have frequent episodes of spitting up may be more likely to develop GERD during later childhood.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Lifestyle and home remedies

To minimize reflux:

  • Feed your baby in an upright position. Also hold your baby in a sitting position for 30 minutes after feeding, if possible. Gravity can help stomach contents stay where they belong. Be careful not to jostle or jiggle your baby while the food is settling.
  • Try smaller, more-frequent feedings. Feed your baby slightly less than usual if you're bottle-feeding, or cut back a little on the amount of nursing time.
  • Take time to burp your baby. Frequent burps during and after feeding can keep air from building up in your baby's stomach.
  • Put baby to sleep on his or her back. Most babies should be placed on their backs to sleep, even if they have reflux.

Remember, infant reflux is usually little cause for concern. Just keep plenty of burp cloths handy as you ride it out.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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