Increase in kids with acid reflux

Stephanie Graham, Vince Vitrano

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Photo: Video by tmj4.com

Increase in kids with acid reflux

By Stephanie Graham, Vince Vitrano. CREATED Jun 2, 2014

When Mara Parker's daughter Sophie had just started kindergarten, she began complaining daily of a sore throat and stomach ache.  

"Honestly, I thought that she was faking it, cause I thought that she didn't want to go to school!" Parker said. "I never imagined-- what could be a sore throat and a stomach?"

Her son Max had very different symptoms. 

"He was doubled over in pain, clutching his chest, you know, saying it was hard to breathe," Parker said.

The doctor's diagnosis for both Parker kids?  Acid reflux.

"I was very surprised, um I never heard of kids getting it," Parker admits.

Sophie and Max are not alone.  Now some experts say they're seeing more kids needing treatment for acid reflux.

"We see it from newborn, even premature infants to the children going to college," said Dr. Karla Au Yeung, a pediatric gastroenterologist. "We don't know how to prevent it from ever coming on because we don't exactly know what starts it for a lot of people."

In many cases she said their symptoms are severe. 

"Some patients might have problems with breathing, some might throw up and some, for children, might not be able to eat enough to gain weight properly,"  Au Yeung said.

The best way to treat reflux: Modify diet and lifestyle, and cut out foods that aggravate the issue. 

"Consuming foods that are really high in fat, that are very spicy, that are very acidic can all cause gastric reflux to be even worse," said Kristi King with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Carbonated beverages can also make reflux worse for kids."

Some tips:  Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, avoid eating too close to bed time, and get an hour of exercise each day.

"That 60 minutes is going to be really important in making sure we keep your child healthy, so that you can prevent or diminish the reflux symptoms," King adds.

If lifestyle modifications don't alleviate symptoms, kids may need over the counter, or even prescription medication.  Patients rarely end up getting surgery for reflux.

As for the Parker's, Sophie's symptoms stopped when she was 10, and Max takes medication twice daily.  His mom hopes someday he'll outgrow it as well. 

"Well, we'll just kind of have to wait and see," Parker said.

One doctor points out that because reflux symptoms can change and vary with age, it is difficult to get a firm number of just how many kids have it.  

A new device called the LINX is being offered at Froedtert as a form of treatment for acid reflux.  The LINX is a small, flexible band of titanium beads placed on the esophagus.  The beads create a magnetic attraction, which helps prevent reflux.