Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—in which gastric acid flows upward out of the stomach into the esophagus—is one of the most common diagnoses seen in the pediatric gastroenterology clinic and causes a variety of symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain and vomiting. Patients with GERD also are at risk for atypical symptoms such as cough, wheezing and pneumonias. One of the proposed reasons for this is that stomach contents are refluxed into the mouth and are then aspirated into the airway.
Proving that aspiration is actually happening, however, is difficult. For this reason, children with GERD are often empirically put on prescription antacids such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to try to alleviate their lung symptoms. Unfortunately, these medications have been associated with an increased risk of respiratory infections, which may make a child’s respiratory symptoms worse rather than better. …Read More