Objectives: To determine the prevalence of symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux (GER) in 3- to 17-year-old children, to describe the prevalence of factors associated with GER in these children, and to determine the percentage of symptomatic children who have been treated.
Design: A cross-sectional survey.
Setting: Sixteen pediatric practice research group practices in the Chicago, Ill, area (urban, suburban, and semirural).
Participants: A total of 566 parents of 3- to 9-year-old children, 584 parents of 10- to 17-year-old children, and 615 children aged 10 to 17 years.
Main outcome measure: Reported frequency of symptoms associated with GER.
Results: Parents of 3- to 9-year-old children reported that their children experienced a sensation of heartburn ("burning/painful feeling in middle of chest"), epigastric pain ("stomachache above belly button"), and regurgitation ("sour taste or taste of throw up") 1.8%, 7.2%, and 2.3% of the time, respectively. Parents of 10- to 17-year-old children reported that their children experienced the same symptoms 3.5%, 3.0%, and 1.4% of the time, while children aged 10 to 17 years reported the symptoms 5.2%, 5.0%, and 8.2% of the time, respectively. Complaints of abdominal pain ("stomachache") were most common, reported by 23.9% and 14.7% of parents of 3- to 9-year-old and 10- to 17-year-old children and by 27.9% of children aged 10 to 17 years. In those aged 10 to 17 years, heartburn reported by the children was associated with reported cigarette use (odds ratio, 6.5; 95% confidence interval, 2-21); no other complaint was associated with cigarette, alcohol, or caffeine consumption or passive smoking exposure. In 3- to 9-year-old children, no complaint was associated with caffeine consumption or passive smoking exposure. Reported treatment in the past week with antacids was 0.5% according to parents of children aged 3 to 9 years and 1.9% and 2.3% according to parents of children aged 10 to 17 years and children aged 10 to 17 years, respectively. Treatment with over-the-counter histamine receptor blockers was 0% for children aged 3 to 9 years and 10 to 17 years, as reported by their parents, and 1.3% for those aged 10 to 17 years, as reported by themselves.
Conclusions: Symptoms suggestive of GER are not rare in childhood, yet only a fraction of children with symptoms are treated with over-the-counter antacids or histamine2 antagonists. Prospective longitudinal data are needed to determine which children with symptoms of GER actually have GER disease and are at risk of developing complications.