Toddler Having Swallowing Problems? Your Child May Have Gastroesophageal Reflux

If your toddler is refusing to eat and finding it hard to swallow their food, this may be due to a medical condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Because this can lead to serious health issues it is important that you see a pediatrician such as those with Choice Medical Group immediately. This doctor can do an initial evaluation and recommend the proper specialist to you. To help you understand this, below is more information about what GERD is, the symptoms your child will have if they have this, and more.


GERD is also known as acid reflux. It often happens with infants, but toddlers and adults can also have this disorder.

There is a muscle, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, at the bottom of your child's esophagus. This muscle is also known as a flap and opens when food is entering the esophagus and then closes to keep the food your child eats in their stomach. If the sphincter muscle stays open for too long, acid gets back into your child's esophagus, resulting in GERD symptoms.

GERD Symptoms

When your child's stomach juices flow from the stomach and then into the esophagus, this results in many symptoms, such as:

  • Burning sensation in throat and chest
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A taste of sour liquid
  • Vomiting the sour liquid
  • Weight loss
  • Respiratory problems
  • Belching
  • Choking
  • Gagging
  • Stomachaches
  • Coughing at night
  • Frequent colds

Your child may not have all these symptoms of GERD. It does depend on how severe the problem is.

How a Pediatric Specialist Diagnoses GERD

When you take your child to a pediatrician, they will likely send them to a pediatric gastroenterologist. This doctor will diagnose GERD in different ways, including:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Endoscopy
  • Upper gastrointestinal series
  • PH testing

Treatment Options

If the doctor finds your child has GERD, there are many treatment options available to them. First, there are foods that will cause GERD to become much worse, including citrus foods, spicy foods, chocolate, peppermint, foods high in fat, caffeine, and fried foods.  

Feed your toddler smaller portions at each meal. Offer them snacks in small portions during the day if they get hungry. Do not let your child go to bed right after they eat a meal. Instead, serve food to them a couple of hours before they go to bed.

The doctor may prescribe medication that will help lower the amount of stomach acid that gets into your child's esophagus.

Over time, your doctor will stop medication. This is because your child will likely grow out of GERD as their esophageal muscle becomes stronger. Once this happens the flap will stay closed when it needs to.

Talk to your child's pediatrician, as well as the specialist, to learn much more about GERD.