Gastroesophageal reflux, or GER, seems to be more common in children today than in previous generations. Dr. Tom Lin, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Duke, says that's probably because GER probably is more common among kids and doctors are becoming better at diagnosing it.
Technological advances that allow doctors to study a gastrointestinal tract with details as crisp as high-definition television mean milder cases and unusual presentations of the common disorder are identified. Media coverage and pharmaceutical advertising also have made the public more aware of GER, Lin says.
What is important for parents to know about the disorder?
Most children do not need to undergo formal, definitive testing to be diagnosed with GER. Today, it is common and accepted medical practice to treat infants and children for possible GER if symptoms are compatible and there are no signs or symptoms of a more severe, complicating disease. Diagnostic studies are most often reserved for cases of persistent or unresponsive symptoms even after the use of anti-reflux medicines, symptom recurrence following the discontinuation of the medicines, or suspicion of another disease.
To help demystify GER, Lin says, it is important for parents to know that GER is a normal physiologic occurrence in infants (especially those born prematurely), children and adults. It is common during infancy with about 95 percent of infants having “outgrown” it by their first birthday.
For older children, dietary factors may play a role in the development of GER. Being overweight or obese can also contribute to the severity of a child’s GER, with weight loss being just one of a number of conservative measures that can help manage a child’s symptoms.
For more on GER and how it's treated, go to dukehealth.org.