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    What causes reflux in infants? Explaining GER & GERD

    Taking care of a child can seem like a neverending minefield of different challenges. Whether you're a new parent or a seasoned pro, you may have encountered situations where your baby spits up or vomits, leaving you concerned and questioning what's normal and what's not. One of the common but lesser-understood causes of these symptoms is infant reflux, a condition primarily caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) and, in more severe cases, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). In this article we will explore infant reflux, shedding light on what exactly GER and GERD are, and how they can affect your little one, as well as ways you can help treat both conditions. 

    What are the causes of reflux in infants?

    Reflux, including both GER (Gastroesophageal Reflux) and GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), in infants can be caused by a variety of factors, many of which are related to the maturity and functionality of their digestive system. Some of the most common causes of reflux in infants include:

    • An underdeveloped lower oesophageal sphincter (LES)

    • Frequently lying down

    • Certain foods that can trigger reflux such as cow’s milk

    • Overfeeding your baby

    • An immature digestive system

    What is GER?

    GER, or Gastroesophageal Reflux, is a common condition in infants that usually involves the baby's stomach contents moving up into the oesophagus. This typically results in the baby spitting up, which can be distressing for parents but is generally not harmful to the infant. 

    This happens because the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES), which is the muscle that prevents stomach contents from flowing back up into the oesophagus, is not yet fully developed in infants. The LES may open at inappropriate times, allowing some stomach contents, including stomach acid, to move back up into the oesophagus.

    What is GERD?

    GERD, which is short for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a more severe and chronic form of reflux compared to GER (Gastroesophageal Reflux). While GER is common in infants and generally harmless, GERD can lead to complications and requires medical attention.

    Just like GER, GERD is caused by the backflow of stomach contents, including acid, into the oesophagus. However, in GERD, this backflow is persistent and can lead to symptoms like pain, discomfort, poor feeding, weight loss, and in some cases, damage to the oesophagus.

    What are the main symptoms of infant reflux?

    Infant reflux, which includes both GER (Gastroesophageal Reflux) and GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), can present with a variety of symptoms. Some of the most common ones include:

    • Frequent spitting up or vomiting

    • Irritability during or after feeding

    • Refusal to eat

    • Arching of the back during or after feeding

    • Chronic coughing or wheezing

    • Trouble sleeping

    • Frequent hiccuping or burping

    • Blood or green/yellow fluid in spit up

    How can you check if your baby has reflux?

    It can be hard to know whether or not your baby is struggling with reflux or not as some of the symptoms could also be symptoms for other conditions. The official NHS advice states that you should keep an eye on your child between the ages of 8 weeks and 1 year. The best thing you can do is keep track of the symptoms listed above.

    What things can be done to ease reflux in babies?

    You may be interested in how you can ease the reflux that your baby is experiencing. The NHS recommends that you should always follow products or advice that is given to you by your healthcare provider. There are several ways that you can ease reflux without having to speak to your doctor. You can change the frequency at which your baby feeds, and you can also make sure your baby sits up straight for at least 30 minutes after feeding. Changing your baby's sleeping position can also help to avoid reflux.

    Can a safe sleeping environment help to reduce the likelihood of infant reflux?

    Maintaining a safe sleep environment is essential for all infants, regardless of whether they experience reflux or not. When it comes to infants with reflux, a safe sleeping environment is even more crucial, as some common advice for reducing reflux could conflict with safe sleep guidelines.

    What things should be avoided to ease reflux in babies?

    To ease reflux in babies as well as reduce the discomfort that is associated with it there are a number of things that you should avoid doing. Some things to steer clear of include:

    • Putting your baby in clothing or nappies that are too tight

    • You should not overfeed your baby as this can increase the risk of reflux

    • You should not lay your baby flat when they have finished feeding

    • You should not thicken baby formula using cereal

    • You should make sure not to introduce solids into your baby's diet too soon, 

    When should you see a GP about reflux in babies?

    For the most part, infant reflux is not harmful, however, you may wish to see a GP if you feel that your baby’s condition is not minor. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek out the help of a doctor if your baby:

    • Isn’t gaining weight.

    • Spits up with force, also known as projectile vomiting.

    • Spits up green or yellow fluid.

    • Spits up blood or stomach contents that look like coffee grounds.

    • Refuses to feed or eat.

    • Has blood in their stool.

    • Has difficulty breathing or a cough that won't go away.

    • Begins spitting up at age 6 months or older.

    • Is unusually irritable after eating.

    • Doesn't have much energy.

    It is important to note that some of these are regular symptoms of reflux, however, they may also be symptoms of other conditions that may need treatment. 

    Which treatments are available to treat reflux in infants at UK Meds?

    At UK Meds we provide a wide range of different reflux medications that can help treat both infants and children. We provide medications that are available on prescription and over-the-counter. One medication that is perfect for infants is Gaviscon Infant

    Gaviscon Infant is ideal for treating reflux in children aged between 1 and 2 years old. If your child is younger than this, you may wish to consult with your doctor to see if this medication is suitable for them. It works by forming a gel in the stomach that helps to stabilise stomach acid. This makes it harder for reflux to occur.

    Do you need a prescription to buy infant reflux medication?

    Yes, in order to purchase a number of different reflux medications from UK Meds you will need to go through our online consultation process that ensures that the medication you have selected is right for you. You will be able to get a free prescription from UK Meds, as long as you successfully complete the online consultation. Some products, however, may not require a prescription, it depends on the product.

    Sources

    NHS - Reflux in Babies

    Nationwide Children's - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Infants

    Mayo Clinic - Infant Acid Reflux

    Gaviscon UK - Gaviscon Infant Sachets

    Medicines for Children - Gaviscon for Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease

    CKS Nice - Gaviscon Infant Prescribing Information

    Patient.info - Childhood Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Leaflet

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    From £12.99
    • Treats infant reflux
    • Prevents reflux and regurgitation
    • Suitable for children aged 1-2

    Blog author

    Scott Weaver

    Scott is an experienced and professional content writer who works exclusively for UK Meds.

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