Symptoms of GERD in an infant include spitting up after eating, a cough, and general fussiness. It may seem as though the baby is colicky when he has GERD. More severe signs of GERD in an infant include forceful vomiting, spitting up blood or mucous, and refusing to eat.
GERD in an infant may occur because a baby's gastrointestinal tract has not matured properly yet, causing the infant to regurgitate food and stomach acid. In many cases, GERD will clear up on its own by the time the baby reaches a year of age. Parents can help ease symptoms of GERD by changing the baby's feeding times, giving him smaller portions of food, and holding the baby upright for a half hour after each feeding.
Vomiting and regurgitation are the most common symptoms of GERD in an infant. The later a baby begins to vomit, the more concerned a parent should be. A parent should call the doctor if her baby begins to spit up food and vomit after the age of six months. The parent should also be very concerned if the baby spits up with great force or coughs up mucous or blood.
Signs of GERD in an infant can be confused with colic. The baby will fuss and cry for what may seem to be no reason. He may refuse to eat or may demand to eat more often. In severe cases, the baby's growth can be disrupted because of GERD.
Some infants with GERD may have symptoms that resemble another illness. They may have a fever or diarrhea. In some cases, baby with GERD will struggle to breathe and wheeze. A baby with frequent pneumonia may suffer from GERD.
Usually, a doctor can diagnose GERD in an infant based on the description of symptoms. In some cases, he may conduct further tests to confirm GERD. A pH probe detects levels of acid in the esophagus and is commonly used to diagnose GERD. During a pH probe, a tube is inserted into the infant's esophagus. The probe is usually performed in the hospital. A doctor can also diagnose GERD by taking x-rays of the baby's gastrointestinal tract.
Sometimes, simply changing the feeding method is all a parent needs to do to treat GERD. A breastfeeding mother may need to change her diet, or a bottle-feeding mother may need to change the brand of formula fed to the infant. In some cases, the infant may need baby doses of heartburn medication to treat GERD.