What it feels like: Children can have reflux at any age. Babies spit up frequently, and they're usually fussy during feedings and when lying down. Older kids feel a burning sensation in the chest and mid-abdomen, which may wake them up at night.
What's going on: The muscle that normally shuts off the esophagus doesn't close properly, allowing the harsh acidic contents of the stomach to wash back up. Many babies have some reflux but outgrow it by about 6 months. When it lingers longer, it may be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can require medication.
What to do: Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for heartburn medication. A recent study found that the number of kids ages 4 and under taking drugs for heartburn and other gastrointestinal conditions has increased more than 50 percent since 2002. One reason may be the rise in obesity, which changes the dynamics of the esophageal muscle, says Benjamin Gold, MD, professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta. Reflux can be triggered by certain foods, so it's a good idea to keep track of what your child has been eating, and then make adjustments. Frequent culprits: fatty fast foods, spicy foods, acidic fruits (like oranges), peppermint, chocolate, caffeine, and eating large meals or eating too close to bedtime. Over-the-counter antacids can help provide immediate relief for kids ages 2 and up.