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What Are the Symptoms of Respirstory Problems Linked With Reflux?
It is often difficult to know if reflux causes lung problems or if it is the other way around. Since the windpipe (trachea) and the esophagus are very close together, many people have assumed that aspiration of the refluxed stomach contents leads to respiratory symptoms.
Reflux of stomach contents up into the upper esophagus has been shown in children with recurrent respiratory symptoms, however this appears to be uncommon and is probably rare among children who are neurologically normal.
While children with neurological abnormalities may aspirate reflux, it is more common for them to aspirate while they are eating, called laryngeal penetration and occurs when swallow-breathe patterns are not well coordinated. Normally when swallowing there is a pause in breathing and the larynx closes t protect the airway. In children with no swallowing difficulties it is believed that they will not aspirate while refluxing.
There are reports of children who suffer from chronic congestion and chronic hoarseness having reflux. It is thought that aspiration of reflux causes inflammation and swelling of the upper airways and results in noisy breathing (stridor) or spasms of the vocal cords (larynogospasm).
The role of reflux in apnea (stopping breathing) and bradycardia (slowing
of the heart rate) is being studied because of potentially life-threatening
situations. So far reflux has not clearly been demonstrated to cause apnea.
It is thought to be coincidental though in extremely rare ocassions there
is thought that reflux has caused this.
There are tests that can confirm Apnea/Bradycardia, such as a Sleep Study. In a sleep study your child is connected through a series of wires (painless) to a machine which records their breathing, heartrate, blood oxygen saturation and in some cases brain waves. For Aspiration, a swallow study may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. This is a simple, non-invasive procedure where different textures of food from juice to solids are given to the child mixed with barium and a technician watches on a machine as they eat/drink. For more information on these and other tests visit the testing section of this site.
Both children and adults with chronic asthma have an increased incidence of reflux. But, it is not known which is the cause. Asthma may precipitate reflux since it may increase abdominal pressure which pushes stomach contents upward. Among children with chronic asthma, the percent of children with chronic ashtema the incidence of reflux has been reported to be between 46 and 75%. In adults the percentage has been as high as 82%. Few children have been reported with having improved asthma symptoms after being treated for reflux which means reflux should be considered a possible cause of uncontrolled chronic respiratory symptoms in children. Many of the things that trigger one also trigger the other.
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