Treatment for GER & GERD in Infants

How do doctors treat GER and GERD in infants?

Most infants with GER do not need treatment. GER symptoms typically improve on their own by the time a child is 12 to 14 months old.6 Depending on an infant’s age and symptoms, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to treat GER or GERD symptoms. In some cases, doctors may also recommend medicines or surgery.

Lifestyle changes

Doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to help improve symptoms of GER or GERD in infants. For example, a doctor may recommend that you

Father holding an infant and talking with a pediatrician.Doctors may recommend lifestyle changes for infants with GER or GERD.

Medicines

Doctors may recommend medicines—typically proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers—if an infant has esophagitis or has bothersome GERD symptoms that don’t improve after lifestyle changes. Don’t give infants medicines unless told to do so by a doctor.

PPIs and H2 blockers lower the amount of acid the stomach makes. Doctors prescribe these medicines to improve GERD symptoms and heal the lining of the esophagus. Infants taking these medicines may have a higher chance of experiencing certain types of infections. Talk with your infant’s doctor about the risks and benefits of these medicines.

Surgery

Doctors don’t often recommend surgery to treat GERD in infants. Doctors may recommend surgery if an infant’s symptoms are severe and other treatments don’t help or if an infant has serious GERD complications. In some cases, infants may need surgery to treat GERD later in childhood.

References

[6] Vandenplas Y. Chapter 10: Gastroesophageal reflux. In: Guandalini S, Dhawan A, Branski D, eds. Textbook of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Springer International Publishing; 2016:105–130.

[7] Winter HS. Gastroesophageal reflux in infants. UpToDate. Updated October 2, 2019. Accessed March 6, 2020. www.uptodate.com/contents/gastroesophageal-reflux-in-infants

November 2020
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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.