Help for common disease

Short stuff: Health roundup

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, better known by its acronym GERD, is common and underdiagnosed in children, says Dr. Marina Claudio, a board-certified family physician with a practice at Advocate Health Center in Logan Square.

GERD occurs when stomach content, including acids, works its way up through the stomach and into the esophagus, sometimes into or out of the mouth. In babies it can be caused by a poorly coordinated gastrointestinal tract and in older children, like adults, by any number of related reasons.

“GERD is… manifested by poor weight gain, signs of esophagitis, persistent respiratory symptoms and behavioral changes,” Claudio says. Babies also regurgitate, but with more potentially serious consequences like unrelenting irritability, apnea and cyanosis (bluish discoloration indicating a lack of oxygen), wheezing, aspiration or recurrent pneumonia and chronic cough, she says.

Recently, the Federal Drug Administration approved short-term use of Nexium to treat GERD in children ages 1-11. The drug was already approved for kids ages 12-17 in 20 mg. or 40 mg. doses. This approval was given for a delayed-release capsule and a liquid form of the drug.

Nexium is one drug in a group called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which reduce how much acid is produced in the stomach.

“This decreases symptoms of GERD and helps to heal (the wearing away of the esophageal lining known as) erosive esophagitis,” says Claudio."So far the studies have been very favorable in improving these symptoms and signs.”

It’s important to note that Nexium hasn’t been approved for treatment of children younger than 1. Also, it does have some adverse reactions in children, most commonly headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, gas, constipation, dry mouth and sleepiness.

But Claudio says that many times relieving the GERD symptoms overrides any potential adverse reactions.

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