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Symptoms of Infant Reflux and Reflux Disease

January 2001
Last Modified Jan 2005


Some common symptoms of uncomplicated reflux can include:

  • constant or sudden crying or colic like symptoms
  • irritability and pain
  • poor sleep habits typically with frequent waking
  • arching their necks and back during or after eating
  • spitting-up or vomiting
  • wet burp or frequent hiccups
  • frequent ear infections or sinus congestion

Your child does not need to exhibit all of these symptoms, in fact, only having one of the above could mean they have reflux. It does not; however, mean they need treatment.  If your child is showing one or more of the above symptoms but is otherwise happy and healthy then some simple lifestyle modifications will likely make life better until they outgrow it.

Symptoms indicative of Reflux Disease or GERD:

  • refusing food or accepting only a few bites despite being hungry or the exact opposite requiring constant small meals or liquid
  • food/oral aversions
  • anemia
  • excessive drooling
  • running nose, sinus infections
  • swallowing problems, gagging, choking
  • chronic hoarse voice
  • frequent red, sore throat without infection present
  • apnea
  • chronic ear infections
  • respiratory problems—pneumonia, bronchitis, wheezing, asthma, night-time cough, aspiration
  • gagging themselves with their fingers or fist (sign of esophagitis)
  • poor weight gain, weight loss, failure to thrive
  • erosion of dental enamel
  • neck arching (Sandifer's Syndrome)
  • bad breath

As with reflux, children with GERD will not necessarily exhibit all these symptoms, for example children with silent reflux will not throw up. Another child suffering from asthma or chronic ear infections may actually have undiagnosed reflux that requires treatment.  One or more of the symptoms listed could mean your child has reflux or GERD.

 If you believe your child shows any of these signs, educate yourself on the treatment methods and then contact your doctor to discuss the best way to treat your child.

Symptoms of Reflux in the Older Child ( 2- 11)

Although by this time your child is probably able to talk it is actually very hard for them to pinpoint or communicate to you exactly what is sore or hurting. It is theorized that it isn’t until the child is 6 years old that they will know where pain is and be able to verbalize it properly.

Symptoms for 2-5 year olds

  • Queasiness
  • Throwing up
  • A hoarse or scratchy voice
  • Complaining of tummy aches
  • Burping, regurgitation and trouble swallowing
  • Choking
  • Weight loss or food refusal
  • Coughing
  • Chest Pain

Symptoms for 6-11

  • Queasiness
  • Throwing up
  • A hoarse or scratchy voice
  • Stomach aches
  • Burping, regurgitation, and trouble swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain

At this age the children are a lot better at verbalizing their pain, look at them when the symptoms are present and see if anything is given away by gesture or reaction. You can also ask them to draw where they are hurt, as it is sometimes easier for a child of this age to draw it than to vocalize it.

Like reflux at any age, symptoms can vary. If your child has any of the above symptoms or you are worried in general, you can try the 14 Steps To Reducing Your Infants Reflux.

If things do not improve, please contact your health provider to see if they agree with the diagnosis and if medical treatment needs to be given.

Reviewed By Dave Olson, MD
Fellow, American Academy of Pediatrics
Graduate University of Michigan School of Medicine

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Site Last Modified: March 29, 2007
*Disclaimer: The information available on this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care for the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of your child's reflux. Please consult with your child's doctor or pharmacist before trying any medication (prescription or OTC) or following any treatment plan mentioned. This information is provided only to help you be as informed as possible about your child's condition.
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