Child/Teen Acid Reflux 411
Answers to your questions about Acid Reflux.

What is acid reflux?

Acid Reflux is the abnormal backwashing of food and stomach acid into the esophagus and throat. Normally food and acid are prevented from entering the esophagus by a muscle at the top of the stomach that closes (contracts). Acid Reflux may be referred to as reflux, heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux. Kids sometimes call it wet burps or throwing up into your throat.

What are the symptoms?

Most kids and teens with acid reflux experience pain and discomfort when the stomach acid enters the esophagus. This may happen right away or hours after eating. Some experience stomach pain, chest pain (heartburn), and throat pain or burning. Others may feel overly full after a meal or may feel that the food just sits in the stomach for hours. Less common symptoms may include: sleep disruption, coughing and throat clearing, asthma/breathing problems, weight loss, sour breath and dental enamel erosion. Symptoms of acid reflux can range from mild to severe.

Why did this happen? I thought heartburn was an “old peoples” disease.

Acid reflux is extremely common, affecting as many as 7 million children and teens. This means that about one in every ten has some problems with reflux on occasion.

Do I need to have a test?

Many doctors will put patients on a special diet and medication for a few weeks to see if the reflux symptoms get better instead of doing any tests. However, sometimes a doctor needs to perform a pH probe which measures the amount of acid in the esophagus. Other times, the doctor will need to look at the stomach and esophagus, either with an endoscope (a long, flexible tube that has a camera in it) or by using a special type of X-ray called a Barium Upper GI.

How do I get control of the symptoms?

Most kids/ adolescents respond to 3 types of treatment:
Lifestyle Changes

Will I get better?

You, your parents and your doctor will work together until the right combination of treatment has been found to reduce discomfort or give you total control. Most people find that the reflux seems to go away, only to re appear when there is a lot of stress (exams, too little sleep), illness or a change of diet ( too much fast food, eating on the run).

Can I participate in sports?

Absolutely! With the proper medical treatment and diet, it should be possible to participate in all sports and activities. Some teen athletes find that sports that put a great deal of stress on abdominal muscles (wrestling, gymnastics) have more symptoms. Again, diet, well timed medication and breathing exercises have been found to help most athletes continue their sports.

What about school?

Sometimes it is hard to find the time to eat properly and take medication at school. Strict lunch and restroom schedules may lead to more discomfort. Some students find that they have restricted access to the nurse and wish they could carry their own medication. It is important to tell your parents and your doctors about what you need at school. They may need to talk to the school nurse, teacher or administrator to come up with a plan for eating snacks, taking medicine or carrying a water bottle to class.
It may be embarrassing to have to go to the nurse or eat a snack in front of your friends. Some teens simply say, “My doctor said I have to do this.” instead of explaining all about the reflux.

Am I the only one?

There have been a number of press reports about singers battling acid reflux: Ashlee Simpson, Joss Stone and Justin Hawkins from The Darkness to name a few. It is likely that someone you know has acid reflux in your school or community. Often, symptoms are controlled and the topic doesn’t come up in conversation.

What can I do?

It is important to:
Communicate your concerns, your symptoms-pain and discomfort, to your parents and your doctor. Tell them if you are having trouble with school, sleeping, coping with the pain, eating and sports.
Follow the treatment plan your doctor has given you. If you don’t agree or something is not working, ask your parents to communicate your concerns to the doctor.
Talk to another kid with acid reflux. PAGER Association can link you with another kid. The PAGER discussion board at has a section for kids to talk with other kids.
Wear a good attitude. It’s not your fault, you didn’t cause reflux. No need to worry- reflux is common and for most kids, it’s not serious. You don’t need to stay home and miss all the fun. Put on your cheerful face every morning and get on with your day.

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Check with your
doctor first!