Researchers say many antacids are ineffective in helping stomach problems,
An infant’s pain or distress can be heartbreaking to watch for some new parents.
We instinctively want to make them better as quickly as possible. But sometimes the easiest solution comes with unintended consequences.
A new study published this month in the journal Pediatrics concludes that infants who are given antacids in their first year of life have a significantly higher risk for bone fractures as they get older.
Infant reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is when stomach acid flows back into the tube connecting a baby’s mouth and stomach. It’s one reason why babies spit up.
This conditionTrusted Source is rarely serious. It happens less frequently as baby gets older, typically resolving by 18 months.
“Infant reflux is common and normal in young infants and is frequently implicated as a cause of fussiness by parents and providers,” Elizabeth Hisle-Gorman, PhD, the study’s corresponding author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland, told Healthline.
Are antacids harmful for infants?
“While acid suppression in infants may be appropriate in certain cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease, there’s a growing body of evidenceTrusted Source that acid-suppression medication use in infants is not only ineffective but may be associated with adverse effects that include an increased risk of infections,” Hisle-Gorman said.
According to Hisle-Gorman, her study adds to the evidence against antacid use for infants “by finding that there also may be adverse effects on bone health, leading to an increased risk for fracture.”
“Our study and prior research on adverse effects of acid-suppressive medications suggest that [antacid] use in infancy should be avoided if possible, and when necessary should be initiated at older ages and prescribed for as short a period as possible,” she said.
When GER becomes GERD
Dr. Jacqueline Jossen, an assistant professor of pediatric gastroenterology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, notes that GER is simply “the movement of stomach contents backward into the esophagus that can be accompanied by regurgitation or vomiting.”
In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about.
“It’s a normal physiologic process in healthy infants, and we refer to these babies as ‘happy spitters,’” Jossen told Healthline.
However, Jossen says when the symptoms of reflux become more serious, there can be adverse consequences.
These include poor eating habits, significant discomfort, and lower weight gain.
That’s when a D is added to designate GERD, a disease adversely affecting a baby’s health.