This article is written for the benefit of reflux parents, based on the experiences of reflux parents. It is not meant to replace medical advice and is of a general nature only. If you have any questions or concerns, please seek advice from your medical professional.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux (GOR, reflux) and Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux DISEASE (GORD). Many people don’t realise there is a difference, that reflux can be anything more than a ‘happy spitter’, or that it can present in so many different ways. This may be why so many reflux families struggle to find support and understanding amongst their family and friends, as well as the wider community. Another reason may be because it is so common it is seen by some as a trivial condition.
It is important to be aware that the act of refluxing is a normal process that virtually everyone does at times. If a child refluxes frequently, then the doctor may diagnose them with gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR). Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux is a common medical condition amongst children of all ages. It often presents with regurgitation or posseting. It tends to peak between one and four months of age (Nelson S. P., 2007), and normally resolves by twelve to eighteen months. For many children and their families, this causes no real problems, and may simply be a nuisance until it is outgrown. Although there can still be family strains and anguish prior to diagnosis, this form can often be successfully controlled by simple remedies such as thickened feeds, keeping baby upright, and/or reassuring the parents.
There can be, however, a more serious side to reflux in children. When the reflux causes complications or long term problems, it may be diagnosed as Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD). It persists despite simple lifestyle measures and can at times be a serious medical problem. The child may suffer from issues such as poor weight gain, persistent irritability, excessive vomiting, coughing, feeding difficulties and breathing problems, though they can still appear to be happy and healthy at times. Medical intervention is often necessary, which can involve the child having medication and/or investigations, and further treatments may need to be established. It can be a major source of distress and concern within families.
A child is generally referred to as having ‘reflux’ within the community, whether the child has uncomplicated gastro-oesophageal reflux or the more serious gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. This in itself creates a lot of confusion and misunderstanding, and unfortunately, many GORD families do not get the support they need.
For more information on this topic, see the presentation at our 2013 conference by Professor Geoff Cleghorn, Paediatric Gastroenterologist on Diagnosis and medical management of infant GORD – introductory clip. Buy full version here.
© Written by Glenda Blanch, RISA Inc member and author of “Reflux Reality: A Guide for Families“; written 2006 and revised 2010
Information reviewed by:
Dr Anthony Catto-Smith, Director, Department of Gastroenterology and Clinical Nutrition,
Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. Victoria. Australia
With the exception of Professor Geoff Cleghorn’s presentation which is his own work.
CDHNF. (2007, September 24). Pediatric Gastroesophageal Reflux Evaluation and Management.
Retrieved April 28, 2008, from Children’s Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation: http://gerd.cdhnf.org/User/Docs/PDF/Slides/GERD_Core_Set_1_Hour.pdf
Nelson, S. P. (2007, February 2). How Should the Management of GERD be Transitioned from Infant to Teenager?
Retrieved August 2, 2010, from Medscape CME: http://cme.medscape.com/viewarticle/550049_2
Vandenplas, Y., Lifshitz, J. Z., Orenstein, S., Lifschitz, C. H., Shepherd, R. W., Casaubón, P. R., et al. (1998). Review Article. Nutritional Management of Regurgitation in Infants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition , 17 (4), 308 – 316.