This morning, I was struck with an acid flare up. It wasn’t a nice early wake up call, in fact it was incredibly painful one that was debilitating. It affected the whole family as I was exhausted from not sleeping and my poor husband had to juggle the morning routine because I was out of action.
My mind immediately went to the poor babies that I often encounter who suffer with reflux and the pain that they must endure. Although an adult’s version of acid reflux is different to an infants, I am sure the pain and the burning sensation must be similar.
During my acid flare up, I headed straight to the medicine box and took out the Omeprazole and Gaviscon. Two medications that will be familiar to parents who have babies who suffer with reflux and will likely to have been prescribed one or both of them.
Although we trust health care professionals that these medications are appropriate, we are not given much information about them. What are these medications that are being given to our babies? Here I explain the reflux medications and issues surrounding them.
This is often the first medication offered to babies who present with reflux symptoms. It is an alginate which reacts with stomach contents. It creates a gel like layer and thickens the milk in the stomach to prevent it from flowing back up the oesophagus. You dissolve it in the milk if your baby is formula fed or given to baby before a feed if your baby is breast fed.
Although many parents feel that it helps reduce the amount of milk being regurgitated, it has been widely reported that it causes constipation. This is because it is more difficult for the milk to be digested due to it being thicker. Constipation itself can cause many difficulties such as wind, bloating and stomach cramps.
This is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) and is used as an acid suppressant. This reduces how much acid the stomach makes by inhibiting the enzymes that produce the stomach acid. It can help when a baby is suffering from acid reflux, often presented as silent reflux or GERD (gastro-oesophagus reflux disease).
However, advice is not to give this to infants under the age of 12 months. Yet it is widely prescribed by health care professionals to babies under this age. I really think more research is needed into this drug that our babies are being given. It has a lot of side effects such as nausea, headaches, stomach cramps and constipation. A baby can’t tell you that they are suffering from a headache, they just cry. This is probably why crying often doesn’t stop when given this medication.
Also, it is worth noting that omeprazole is designed to be a short term resolution as we need stomach acid to keep bacteria and other pathogens at bay. Another of the side effects is bacteria overgrowth due to the lack of stomach acid. Unfortunately, not many parents are given advice on when and how to wean their babies off this medication.
This medication is known as a H2 blocker or a Histamine 2 Receptor. Similar to a PPI, it reduces stomach acid. This is done by stopping the histamine-2 response in the stomach which stimulates gastric acid production. You may know this medication as Zantac or Pepcid. It is now much more difficult to be prescribed this medication due to it’s recall. Tests found that it contained cancer causing chemicals, therefore there has been a move away from this drug.
Reflux is very difficult and of course you want to help your baby as much as you possibly can. This is why we turn to health care professionals to provide us with a solution. This article isn’t intended to advise you against reflux medication. Its purpose is to educate parents on the medications that are being prescribed because knowledge is the best defence against colic and reflux.
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