Heartburn, reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease

Learn how our Gastroenterology, Liver and Nutrition Program cares for children with heartburn, reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Related tests and treatments:

Our approach to heartburn, reflux and GERD

For more than two decades, the Constipation and Reflux Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has treated thousands of children with heartburn and reflux. Run by experienced pediatric nurse practitioners, the program specializes in treating babies 18 months and younger who do not have feeding issues. Older children and children who have feeding issues are usually treated by our pediatric gastroenterologists and multidisciplinary feeding team, who are experts in gastroesophageal reflux disease and other diagnoses that cause feeding problems.

We believe in taking an evidence-based and noninvasive approach whenever possible. Sometimes the infants referred to our program are already on reflux medications, and we will wean them off if we feel the medication is unnecessary. We often try diet and lifestyle changes before prescribing medications to minimize your child’s risks and side effects. We use a combination of education, behavior management and medication interventions tailored to meet the unique needs of your child.

Heartburn, reflux and GERD services we offer

Our experts can help in many ways. The services we offer include:

Diagnosing and treating heartburn, reflux and GERD

During your first clinic visit, your GI provider will obtain a health history, perform a physical exam and develop a customized treatment plan with your family. The health history could indicate a trigger for your child’s heartburn and reflux, such as medications that irritate the stomach’s lining or certain foods. If your child’s provider suspects GERD or another GI condition, he or she might recommend one or more of the following tests:

Reflux is so common in infants that testing and treatment usually isn’t warranted, though your doctor or nurse practitioner may suggest eliminating dairy or soy in formula or breast milk to see if that improves your baby’s symptoms. Diet and lifestyle changes can also be helpful in managing heartburn and reflux in older children.

If your child has gastroesophageal reflux disease your doctor might prescribe a medication (such as a H2 blocker or proton-pump inhibitor) to decrease the amount of stomach acid. Medications are typically stopped after two months. At that point, the esophagus is usually healed, which alleviates the discomfort of heartburn and reflux.