MIAMI (CBSMiami) – You may think of it as an adult issue, but some experts report they’re seeing a spike in numbers of children with acid reflux. It can be a painful problem, with a wide range of symptoms.
When Mara Parker’s daughter Sophie had just started kindergarten, she began complaining daily of a sore throat and stomach ache.
“Honestly, I thought that she was faking it because I thought that she didn’t want to go to school! I never imagined what could be a sore throat and a stomach?” said Parker.
“He was doubled over in pain, clutching his chest, you know, saying it was hard to breathe,” said Parker.
The doctors diagnosed both of Parker’s kids with acid reflux.
“I was very surprised, um I never heard of kids getting it,” said Parker.
Sophie and Max are not alone. Now some experts say they’re seeing more kids needing treatment for acid reflux.
“We see it from newborn, even premature infants to the children going to college. We don’t know how to prevent it from ever coming on because we don’t exactly know what starts it for a lot of people,” said Pediatric Gastroenterologist Dr. Karla Au Yeung.
She’s not only getting more reflux patients, but in many cases their symptoms are more severe.
“Some patients might have problems with breathing, some might throw up and some, for children, might not be able to eat enough to gain weight properly,” said Dr. Yeung.
She said the best way to treat reflux in kids is to start by modifying diet and lifestyle, cutting out foods that aggravate the issue.
“Consuming foods that are really high in fat, that are very spicy, that are very acidic can all cause gastric reflux to be even worse. Carbonated beverages can also make reflux worse for kids,” said Pediatric dietician Kristi King.
King works with children to manage their reflux. She recommends kids have smaller more frequent meals throughout the day, avoid eating too close to bed time and get an hour of exercise each day since being overweight can also aggravate symptoms.
“That 60 minutes is going to be really important in making sure we keep your child healthy, so that you can prevent or diminish the reflux symptoms,” said King.
If lifestyle modifications don’t alleviate symptoms, kids may need over the counter or even prescription medication. In some cases surgery is necessary.
As for the Parkers, Sophie’s symptoms stopped when she was ten and Max takes medication twice daily. His mom hopes someday he will outgrow it as well.
“We’ll just kind of have to wait and see,” said Parker.
Doctors point out that because reflux symptoms can change and vary with age, it is difficult to get a firm number of just how many kids have it.