When a baby often spits up food to the point where it isn't getting enough to eat and thrive, a doctor should be called in. The doctor can check whether the baby has gastroesophageal reflux or another condition that is causing the problem.
A sign that a child may have gastroesophageal reflux may be most pronounced in a peculiar arching movement. This happens in some infants because of the painful burning sensation when the stomach fluid remains in the esophagus. Sometimes this movement is mistaken for a neurological problem.
Other signs might include:
- Failure to grow and gain weight
- Frequent cough or coughing fits at night
- Frequent sore throats in morning
- Frequent upper respiratory infections (colds)
- Frequent vomiting
- Rattling in the chest
- Refusal to eat or fussiness at meals
- Sour taste in the mouth
When the spit up food reaches the back of throat as the infant is breathing, the material can be inhaled into the windpipe and lungs. The infant will cough in response. Sometimes this may be mistaken for asthma or bronchitis for years before the real cause is discovered. The inhaled material may also cause an infection that leads to pneumonia. It may also be a cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
When the spit up food reaches the back of the throat at the same time that the baby breathes, the material is aspirated into the windpipe and lungs. The aspirated material may cause a chemical or bacterial pneumonia. A child can be thought to have reactive airway disease, asthma, or bronchitis for some years before the real reason - reflux - is found.
Causes and Risk Factors
Gastroesophageal reflux disease happens because of several factors including:
- The angle of where the esophagus joins the stomach. (This is called the angle of His.)
- How toned the muscles are at the lower end of the esophagus
- The length of the esophagus inside the abdomen
- A pinching effect of the fibers of the diaphragm where they separate to allow the esophagus to pass from the abdomen to the chest. )The diaphragm itself is a thin muscle below the lungs and heart that separates the abdomen from the chest.)
- Other factors such as having a hiatal hernia.
Certain foods - chocolate, peppermint and high-fat foods - seem to make the muscle that is supposed to close the mouth of the stomach where it joins the esophagus stay open longer. Other foods, such as citrus fruit and tomatoes, cause the stomach to make more acid.