Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Infants and Children

What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disorder that involves the esophagus (the tube through which food travels to the stomach) and the stomach. GERD occurs when contents in the stomach (usually the stomach acid and formula) moves backwards into the esophagus.

The esophagus and stomach are separated by a type of muscular valve called a sphincter. Normally, the sphincter remains tightly closed except when food is swallowed. When food is swallowed, the sphincter opens to let food pass from the esophagus to the stomach. In patients with GERD, the sphincter does not close fully, causing the stomach contents to move back into the esophagus. The stomach acid causes a burning sensation when it is in the esophagus, also known as "heartburn." When this burning sensation occurs more frequently, the condition is called GERD.

What are some of the symptoms of GERD in children?

Symptoms of GERD in children include:

When does a child/infant need to be hospitalized for GERD?

GERD is usually treated on an outpatient basis. However your child will need to be hospitalized if he or she:

What diagnostic tests will my child undergo?

Note: Your child may or may not need all of these studies.

What treatments/management approaches for GERD will be considered for my child?

Approaches may include one or more of the following:

When will my child be ready for discharge?

Your child will be ready for discharge when he or she:

What will be the follow-up for my child after discharge from the hospital?

Your child should see his or her primary health care provider within one week to review symptom resolution and verify continued weight gain.

When should I call my health care provider?

Call your health care provider if your child:


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit or This document was last reviewed on: 11/30/2016