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What is heartburn? What is GERD?

Heartburn describes a painful, burning feeling behind the breastbone, commonly after eating or drinking certain foods, like onions, citrus, alcohol, or coffee. The burning sensation is often worse when lying down or bending over. Heartburn happens when the contents of the stomach come back up the esophagus (or throat) and the acid from the stomach touches the throat lining. Occasional heartburn is common in children and adults, and may also be called acid reflux, acid indigestion, reflux, or acid regurgitation.

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is the medical name for a more serious and long-lasting condition of frequent heartburn, acid indigestion, or acid reflux, with the symptoms happening more than twice a week for weeks. GERD can only be diagnosed by your healthcare provider. GERD is more common in adults than children, but up to 25% of children and teens have GERD symptoms. More than half of 4-month-old babies have GERD symptoms, but GERD seems to lessen as babies get older because by age 1 year, only about 10% of babies have GERD symptoms. In infants, the most common symptom of GERD is spitting up more than they normally do, but can also include symptoms like colic, vomiting, and refusing to eat.

Without treatment, and over time, GERD can sometimes lead to other health complications like respiratory problems (including asthma, congestion, hoarseness, laryngitis, and pneumonia), esophageal stricture (a narrowing of the esophagus), and damage to tooth enamel. If you or a loved one experience painful heartburn more than twice a week, or over-the-counter antacid medications do not provide sufficient relief, make an appointment to speak with your doctor.

References:

Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Infants. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-infants. Accessed July 10, 2017.

Definition & Facts for GER & GERD in Children & Teens. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-children-teens/definition-facts. Accessed July 10, 2017.

Definition & Facts for GER & GERD in Infants. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-infants/definition-facts. Accessed July 10, 2017.

Symptoms & Causes of GER & GERD in Infants. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-infants/symptoms-causes. Accessed July 10, 2017.

Diseases and Conditions: Heartburn. Mayo Clinic Staff. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/basics/definition/con-20019545. Accessed July 10, 2017.

Vandenplas Y, Rudolph CD, Di Lorenzo C, Hassall E, Liptak G, Mazur L, Sondheimer J, Staiano A, Thomson M, Veereman-Wauters G, Wenzl TG, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition, European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition. Pediatric gastroesophageal reflux clinical practice guidelines: joint recommendations of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) and the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN). J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2009;49(4:498-547.

Managing GERD

In Infants
In Children & Teens
In Adults

In infants

Usually, gastroesophageal reflux, or GER, stops on its own in babies, without becoming gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, so doctors often do not treat GER in infants. Your doctor is your best resource for symptom and treatment advice. To relieve symptoms of GERD in babies, doctors may suggest some feeding changes, and, if needed, talk about or prescribe medicines. Do not give a baby any medications unless directed to do so by your doctor.

Feeding changes your doctor may suggest include

  • Adding a small bit of rice cereal to formula or bottled breastmilk
  • Burping your baby after each 1 to 2 ounces of formula, or after nursing from each breast, for breastfed babies
  • Avoiding overfeeding your baby; follow the amount recommended by your doctor
  • Holding the baby upright for 30 minutes after feedings
  • Trying a hydrolyzed protein formula for 2 to 4 weeks; however, do not change formulas unless the doctor tells you to.

Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about your baby’s eating. Only your healthcare provider can diagnose GERD. If your baby has GERD, ask your healthcare provider if PRILOSEC® Packets might be right for your baby.

Reference: Treatment for GER & GERD in Infants. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-infants/treatment. Accessed July 11, 2017.

In children and teens

Diet and lifestyle changes can help prevent or relieve symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Your doctor is your best resource for symptom and treatment advice. Your doctor may suggest that you:

Avoid foods and drinks that seem to trigger your child’s symptoms. These may include

  • Greasy, high-fat, or spicy foods
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • peppermint
  • acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus

Time your child’s meals

  • provide smaller, more-frequent meals, rather than large ones
  • finish all eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime

Help your child adjust his or her body positions and posture to

  • stay upright for a few hours after eating
  • sit up straight, without slouching
  • sleep on a slight angle by raising the head of the bed

Make some lifestyle changes

  • If your child is overweight, talk with a doctor or dietician about changes that can help with losing weight and reducing GERD symptoms. Extra weight presses on the stomach, which can force acid into the esophagus (throat).
  • Have your child wear clothing that is loose around the abdomen to avoid putting pressure on the stomach.
  • If a teen smokes, help him or her quit. Avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke makes the muscles between the stomach and esophagus work less effectively, which may allow stomach acid to travel up into the throat.

Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about your child’s eating, symptoms, or treatment. For infrequent heartburn, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter GERD medicines to provide relief. For diagnosed GERD, for heartburn occurring more than twice a week, or when over-the-counter medicines don’t control GERD symptoms, prescription medications may be needed. Only your healthcare provider can diagnose GERD. If your child has GERD, ask your healthcare provider if PRILOSEC® Packets might be right for your child.

References:

Treatment for GER & GERD in Children & Teens. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-children-teens/treatment. Accessed July 11, 2017.

Diseases and Conditions: Heartburn. Mayo Clinic Staff. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/basics/definition/con-20019545. Accessed July 10, 2017.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/eating-diet-nutrition. Accessed July 11, 2017.

In adults

Diet and lifestyle changes can help prevent or relieve symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Your doctor is your best resource for symptom and treatment advice. Your doctor may suggest that you:

Avoid foods and drinks that seem to trigger your symptoms. These may include:

  • greasy, high-fat, or spicy foods
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • peppermint
  • acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus
  • alcoholic drinks

Time your meals

  • eat smaller, more-frequent meals, rather than large ones
  • finish all eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime

Adjust your body positions and posture

  • stay upright for a few hours after eating
  • sit up straight, don’t slouch
  • raise the head of your bed to sleep on a slight angle

Make some lifestyle changes

  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking makes the muscles between the stomach and esophagus work less effectively, which may allow stomach acid to travel up into the throat.
  • If you are overweight, try slimming down. Extra weight presses on your stomach, which can force acid into your esophagus (throat).
  • Wear clothing that is loose around your middle to avoid putting pressure on your stomach.

For infrequent heartburn, over-the-counter GERD medicines may provide relief. For diagnosed GERD, for heartburn occurring more than twice a week, or when over-the-counter medicines do not control GERD symptoms, prescription medications may be needed. Only your healthcare provider can diagnose GERD. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and whether PRILOSEC® Packets may be right for you.

References:

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/eating-diet-nutrition. Accessed July 11, 2017.

Diseases and Conditions: Heartburn. Mayo Clinic Staff. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/basics/definition/con-20019545. Accessed July 10, 2017.

Treatment for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/treatment. Accessed July 11, 2017.