More and more doctors are prescribing acid reflux medications to treat babies that spit up, assuming there is too much acid in their stomach and it can be treated with the same kind stomach acid medications adults use. One researcher is speaking out against the increase of acid reflux meds being prescribed to babies, blaming advertising for the spike in use.

Over medicated
Eric Hassall, a pediatric gastroenterologist from Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco, conducted a study with about 1 million infants. The results revealed a seven-fold increase in prescriptions for drugs like Nexium for infants between 1999 and 2004.

Hassall believes children are over medicated and that spitting up is not a problematic symptom, it’s just part of being a baby.

Spitting up and crying have “long been observed in otherwise healthy, thriving infants,” with as many as 40 percent to 70 percent of infants spitting up on a daily basis, Hassall wrote. This reflux is normal, not gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD.

But parents are bombarded with advertising, leading them to “blur the lines between normality and pathologies,” Hassall wrote.

Danger to the baby
Hassall says there is no science that backs using these stomach acid meds in infants, but there is “GERD mania,” according to Hassall. While the medications have been shown to help adults, the largest clinical trial in infants found that a proton pump inhibitor was no better than placebo. To top it off, Hassall believes the medications could do more damage than good.

“Acid is an early line of defense against infection and important for absorption of certain nutrients,” Hassall wrote. A slew of health problems are more common in people who’ve taken acid-suppressing medications, including acute gastroenteritis, one type of pneumonia and food allergies. Infants might be at risk these illnesses just because they took the medications.

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