Gastro-oesophageal reflux in children--what's the worry?

Aust Fam Physician. 2012 May;41(5):268-72.


Background: Gastro-oesophageal reflux is common and benign in children, especially during infancy. Distinguishing between gastrooesophageal reflux, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and other illnesses presenting as chronic vomiting can be difficult. The general practitioner has a key role to play in identifying if a child requires referral for further investigation.

Objective: This article outlines the main differential diagnoses to be considered in children presenting with chronic vomiting and/ or regurgitation. We also discuss key management decisions regarding gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in children and when to refer to a specialist for further investigation.

Discussion: Chronic vomiting and regurgitation frequently occurs in infancy and is most commonly due to simple, benign gastrooesophageal reflux, which is usually self limiting without requirement for further investigation. In contrast, gastrooesophageal reflux disease requires considered management and may be a presenting symptom of food allergy requiring more intensive therapy than simple acid suppression. Regular review by the general practitioner to ascertain warning signs will ensure that other serious illnesses are not overlooked and that appropriate investigation and specialist referral are made.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Eosinophilic Esophagitis / complications
  • Eosinophilic Esophagitis / diagnosis*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diet therapy
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Laryngopharyngeal Reflux / etiology
  • Male
  • Milk / immunology
  • Vomiting / etiology