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Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Children

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Definition & Facts

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when stomach contents come back up into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more severe and long-lasting condition in which GER causes repeated symptoms or leads to complications over time.

Mother holding child while a pediatrician listens to the child’s heart with a stethoscope.

Symptoms & Causes

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) commonly cause symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation. GERD may develop when a child’s lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t.

Diagnosis

Doctors often diagnose gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in children by reviewing their symptoms and medical history. If symptoms don’t improve with lifestyle changes and medicines, doctors may recommend medical tests.

Treatment

To treat gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in children, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery, or a combination of these treatments.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

To reduce gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms in children, doctors may recommend avoiding eating before lying down and avoiding foods and drinks that make symptoms worse.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) conducts and supports clinical trials in many diseases and conditions, including digestive diseases. The trials look to find new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease and improve quality of life.

Your Digestive System & How It Works

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract—also called the digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus.

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Carlo Di Lorenzo, M.D., Nationwide Children's Hospital