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Medical News & Perspectives
October 17, 2017

Study Questions Use of Acid Suppressors to Curb Mild Infant Reflux

JAMA. 2017;318(15):1427-1428. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.12160

Not so long ago when an infant showed signs of gastroesophageal reflux (GER), popularly known as spitting up, the treatment was a good burp and a ready towel. After all, the condition is common: Up to 65% of all babies do it and most grow out of it by their first birthday as their digestive tracts functionally mature.

But in recent years, physicians have been increasingly prescribing powerful stomach-acid suppressors, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and histamine2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers), to otherwise healthy infants with GER. However, evidence suggests these drugs don’t reduce symptoms of even more serious reflux conditions in infants or crying and irritability in infants that is often presumed to be a sign of reflux. Safety concerns have also recently emerged with new findings that suggest giving the drugs to infants younger than 6 months of age is associated with a higher risk of bone fractures later in childhood.