The lower end of the esophagus is protected by a valve called the Lower Esophageal sphincter (LES). This valve opens to allow food from the esophagus into the stomach and then closes up to protect the esophagus from the acid content of the stomach. Several conditions can compromise this valve, allowing gastric content into the esophagus. As in adults, infants also suffer from heartburn on occasions. This is mainly attributed to the fact that infants consume essentially liquid and soft foods, which tend to be rich in diary proteins. The most unfortunate part of infant acid reflux disease is that, unlike in adults, it is very difficult to determine if an infant has developed chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease. An infant is most unlikely to be able to complain of heartburn or any symptoms of the disease.
Acid reflux in infants is always as a result of a lot of factors, however, most of the causative factors tend to be aggravated by the fact that infants, spend a great deal of their days lying on their back or in a supine position and consume mostly liquid food. The tendency for liquid food to cause regurgitation, when combined with the pressure lying in a supine position exerts on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) constitutes a greater risk of reflux acid incidence in infants. The incidence, however, could also be attributed to some other factors like, the anatomy of the infant's stomach, improper or incomplete development of the lower esophageal sphincter during fetal growth, poor diet, overweight, food allergies and a host of other factors.
Because infants, unlike adults, cannot complain of symptoms or explain how they feel, it is always very difficult to know when an infant is suffering from acid reflux. The best bet is to consult a pediatrician. Nevertheless, there are signs and clues that you may look out for in your infant that could suggest the presence of the disease. Some of these clues are:
- Sleeping problems
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Spitting up frequently
- Unusual irritability
- Chest pain
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
Acid reflux disease can also cause respiratory problems including pneumonia, strictures and ulcerations on the esophageal wall, and malnourishment. Although, these signs don't always mean your infant is suffering from acid reflux disease, but they constitute a good enough reason to go see your pediatrician.
Of course, there are a few things you could do to help your child avoid acid reflux. Simple things like changing the child's food, keeping him/her upright for some time, especially after eating, keeping a eye on the child for any sign of chest pain or heartburn and a host of others. This extra attention could be all your child really needs.