What are the Most Common Causes of Heartburn in Children?

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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2019
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The most common cause of heartburn in children is acid reflux. Stomach acid travels back up the esophagus, leading to heartburn. An underdeveloped digestive system in newborn babies and infants also puts them at risk for heartburn and acid reflux. Even the foods that children eat can lead to heartburn and fatigue. Until the foods are eliminated or reduced in the child’s diet, he or she may experience constant heartburn. The time of day that children eat also plays a role, because eating too close to bedtime can lead to acid reflux.

The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter is a muscle located at the base of the esophagus, and it keeps stomach acid from traveling back up the tube. When it gets relaxed, it doesn’t stop the stomach acid from entering the esophagus. Acid reflux, also known as gastro esophageal reflux, occurs and is often the main cause of heartburn in children. Spitting up soon after feeding or eating is one sign of heartburn.


A digestive system that’s not fully developed is a common cause of heartburn in infants. Infants and newborns are at risk for heartburn because they don’t have a strong enough system in place to combat acid reflux. As they get older, the risk is eliminated. There’s not much that can be done until then, other than to ensure best practices during feeding, such as burping them often during feeding. Breastfeeding babies and introducing healthy and organic foods when infants are ready to eat solids are often preventative measures that parents can take.

Eating certain foods can also cause heartburn in children. Foods that are spicy or contain caffeine often cause acid reflux in children. Some citrus fruits and fatty and deep-fried fruits can also lead to heartburn and chest pain. Parents have reported that tomato-based foods were the culprits for constant heartburn, such as tomato sauces and chili. A medical provider may recommend eliminating these foods temporarily or for the long term.

The time that children eat before naps or bedtime can also lead to heartburn. It’s often better to let children eat several hours before going to bed. If they eat immediately prior to going to bed, the lower esophageal sphincter may relax and not keep stomach acid out of the esophagus. Older children may complain of heartburn verbally, but infants will indicate that there’s a problem by vomiting or spitting up in bed.



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