More kids taking prescription heartburn medication

Filed under: Babies, Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Babies, In The News

Lately, Ellie has been complaining about symptoms that sound an awful lot like heartburn. She describes it as feeling like a there is a bubble in her chest that makes her want to burp. This usually happens only after eating certain foods, which we are now avoiding. It never occurred to me that she might need medication, but apparently more U.S. kids than ever are taking prescription drugs to treat heartburn.

According to an analysis released by Medco Health Solutions, more than 2 million children in the U.S. under the age of 18 were using drugs to treat digestive or gastrointestinal complaints last year. That is an increase of about 56% in recent years and experts are blaming obesity and overuse.

This rise in the use of heartburn medication coincides with the rising rates of obesity in the United States. With 10% of America's preschoolers and 30% of older children considered to be overweight, it's not surprising that more kids would be suffering from heartburn, a common ailment in those who are overweight.

But heartburn and acid reflex are also common in healthy weight infants and children and though many of them will outgrow it, experts say that more parents are demanding medication. They blame this phenomenon partly on direct-to-consumer marketing. In other words, commercials and other advertisements.

While reflux drugs are considered safe, according to Dr. Benjamin Gold, an Emory University specialist in children's digestive diseases, there is some evidence linking long-term use with increased risks of infections. Dr. Renee Jenkins, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says parents should try non-drug remedies before turning to medications for treating reflux and other digestive issues in young children. These remedies might include cutting out fatty food and eating smaller, more frequent meals.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.