It's very common for babies and young children to bring up partly digested food from their stomach. This usually doesn't cause problems and most children grow out of it. But if it happens frequently or causes problems, doctors call it gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). If your child has GORD, they may need treatment.
We've brought together the best research about GORD in children and weighed up the evidence about how to treat it. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for your child.
If your child has gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), they bring up partly digested food from their stomach into the tube that links their mouth and stomach. The tube is called the oesophagus. Sometimes food can come all the way up into the throat or mouth and the child may be sick.
A ring of muscle at the lower end of the oesophagus, where it joins the stomach, usually prevents food from being brought back up (regurgitated). The muscle is called the lower oesophageal sphincter. It acts like a valve. When you eat, the muscle opens up so that food can go from your oesophagus into your stomach. The muscle then closes up so that the food stays in the stomach until it is broken down and moves into the gut.
In babies and young children, this muscle may not work properly. So they sometimes bring up their food, and may be sick. In many children, there's nothing wrong with the muscle, and we don't fully understand why it opens when it shouldn't.
GORD can be worrying, but most of the time it's not a serious problem. Children normally grow out of it.
Babies and young are more likely to get GORD if:
The ring of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus (the oesophageal sphincter) hasn't fully developed. This is more likely in premature babies
The stomach gets too full
Part of the stomach gets pushed up into the chest, through a gap in the diaphragm (a large, thin muscle that separates the lungs and the stomach). This is called a hiatus hernia. If this happens, your child may need an operation to close the gap
Food moves too slowly down the oesophagus.
When partly digested food goes up into the oesophagus, it is often quite acidic. This is because acid is produced in the stomach to help break food down, before it moves into the gut. If acid gets into the oesophagus it can make the oesophagus sore and inflamed. This is called oesophagitis.
Inflammation is when your skin or some other part of your body becomes red, swollen, hot, and sore. Inflammation happens because your body is trying to protect you from germs, from something that's in your body and could harm you (like a splinter) or from things that cause allergies (these things are called allergens). Inflammation is one of the ways in which your body heals an infection or an injury.
A valve is a piece of tissue, located in a tube or passageway in your body, that keeps materials or fluid flowing in one direction, by preventing them from flowing backwards. There are valves in your veins, for example, which keep blood flowing towards your heart and stop blood from flowing back away from your heart.
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