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Reflux in Newborns – All about Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment


It is quite common to see acid reflux in newborns. It is natural to be worried as a parent, however. That is why you have to be well informed about the condition. This will allow you to take the right action whenever necessary.

The symptoms of acid reflux in newborns are many and different. Since stomach acids go up the esophagus, your child feels heartburn. This naturally causes him/her to cry, to arch his/her back and to refuse to eat. Hiccups, wheezing and coughing are other common symptoms. Your child may be irritable before and after meals. There are some more serious symptoms which require timely medical attention. These include spitting up forcefully, spitting up blood, green-yellowish material or blood, blood in stools, diarrhea and fever. You have to see a doctor if the infant is not gaining weight despite standard feeding schedule and portions.

The main cause of reflux in newborns is their underdeveloped gastrointestinal system. The sphincter, the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, normally tightens so that the content of the stomach remains in place. However, in infants, it may stay relaxed until the gastrointestinal tract is mature enough at the age of 12 to 18 months. Sometimes, the problem is caused by too much food and/or too fast eating. It is also possible that there is an object obstructing the esophagus. That is why your child has to be diagnosed by a medical doctor.

The doctor will usually run simple tests to diagnose the condition. These include a general exam and blood and urine tests. The doctor may have to use a thin tube inserted through the mouth to measure the acidity in the esophagus. These tests should be sufficient in most cases. However, it may be necessary for the doctor to take x-rays of the upper gastrointestinal tract called GI series. Upper endoscopy is necessary in rare cases. It involves the placing of a thin tube with an attached camera at the end into the esophagus. That way the doctor can examine the walls and the contents completely.

The treatment of acid reflux in newborns usually involves changes in the feeding habits. Feeding your baby smaller portions of food more frequently, changing the formula and/or making it thicker are all things that may help. Keeping your child upright before and after meals and helping him/her burp are other simple methods that work. Your doctor may prescribe medications used for the treatment of this condition in a dosage suitable for infants. Usually, these are H2 blockers which reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. In rare cases, a surgery may be necessary.

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