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Much Ado About Reflux

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported an interesting study this week: Researchers found that when a problem with a kid was labeled a “disease,” parents were more likely to want to medicate. More specifically, parents who were told that their baby’s spitting up was “gastroesophageal reflux disease” were more likely to ask for medication, even when the parents were told the meds would not work!

“There is a growing concern that GERD is overdiagnosed and overtreated in infants. This study suggests physicians can reduce interest in medications by not labeling the symptoms as GERD and by explaining to parents that acid reflux medications are not effective, study authors say.”

I talked to Michel about this study which I find fascinating for reasons to do with the phenomenon of over-diagnosis/over-medicating in general, and for the revelations about GERD in particular. He pointed me to something he wrote on this topic almost ten years ago:

“For the past few years, reflux has been a fashionable diagnosis for adults. Everybody seems to have it, and it gets blamed for virtually every upper-body symptom. Now, reflux hysteria has spilled over onto babies. Years ago a baby who cried was just your average baby. Nowadays, a crying baby is a baby with reflux.”


Dr. TJ Gold explains, “all babies have reflux to some degree in infancy– it’s a fancy way to say they regurgitate and it’s the reason we buy bibs. There are very few babies who have ‘medical reflux.’ These babies generally cannot gain adequate weight and are in such discomfort it’s out of the norm.” Dr. Brigitte Newman added, “If the baby is growing well, there’s no blood in the spit up, no evident wheezing or pain after a feed, just hold her upright for several minutes, she does not need medication. I do think Zantac or Prevacid help with real GERD, but not with fussy babies or normal spitters.”

Here is the reflux chapter from The New Basics it’s very much in line with what the other pediatricians say here, and gives a good medical description of what reflux truly is.

Ceridwen Morris is the co-author of the pregnancy and baby book From The Hips and teaches at Tribeca Parenting.