If your child is experiencing heartburn, there may be simple steps you can take at home to help alleviate symptoms. Medical practice guidelines published in the May 2009 issue of the "Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition" note that children can experience heartburn for many different reasons. The solutions to calm heartburn often involve trying different methods to help your child feel better. Working closely with your doctor, implementing different home remedies and paying attention to the results can help your child with heartburn.
Avoiding Tight Clothing and Prolonged Sitting
If your child experiences heartburn, stiff or tight-fitting clothing could make symptoms worse. Tight-fitting dress pants, blue jeans or even a belt can put extra pressure on the stomach and push its contents into the esophagus, provoking or adding to the discomfort of heartburn -- especially while sitting. Pants that have an elastic waistband can provide extra flexibility around the stomach area. Sitting for prolonged periods hunched over an electronic device, even with loose-fitting clothing, can also increase heartburn symptoms.
Gum and Antacids
Chewing gum may provide immediate relief for a child with heartburn. It can not only serve as a positive distraction from the pain but can also help wash down the stomach acid if that is causing the heartburn. Medical practice guidelines from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition state that over-the-counter antacids may also provide quick relief of heartburn in some children and adolescents. However, since frequent or long-term antacid use may cause side effects, talk with your doctor about using this remedy.
If acid reflux is the cause of your child’s heartburn, having him stay upright for a few hours after eating can be helpful. For example, going for a walk after a meal instead of lying down might help with digestion and keep stomach contents from coming back into the esophagus. To help manage nighttime heartburn symptoms, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends not eating for 2 to 3 hours before bedtime and either raising the head of the bed with risers or sleeping on a special foam wedge that elevates the upper body.
While occasional heartburn is very common and usually harmless, frequent heartburn can be a complicated condition for children and adults. Keeping a simple daily journal of how often or severe heartburn was for your child may help you determine food triggers, what times of the day are worse and which treatments are working the best. The journal does not have to be complicated or add to your daily stress. You may be surprised at the patterns you begin to put together.
Next Steps and Precautions
Frequent, persistent or troublesome heartburn can be a symptom of a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Other symptoms that might signal GERD include:
-- Unexplained vomiting.
-- Difficulty swallowing.
-- Chronic cough.
-- Hoarse voice.
If your child is reporting heartburn regularly or experiencing other symptoms that might indicate GERD, it's important to contact your child’s doctor right away for further evaluation and treatment. Prescription medication may be required to treat your child’s heartburn in addition to home remedies.
Medical advisor: Jonathan E. Aviv, M.D., FACS