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Whats in a Name? Heres Looking at You, GERD

baby crying with refluxThe first 10 weeks of my son’s life were miserable. (You know, besides the whole ‘I have world’s most adorable, snuggly newborn baby and he’s the greatest thing ever’ part.) Actually he was quite miserable much longer than his first 10 weeks, but that’s when I, an avid medication avoider, found myself in the doctor’s office begging for a prescription. I was a typical first time mom, full of questions and self-doubt in my abilities as parent. The frustration of not knowing what was wrong with my son and the reality that I couldn’t fix it weighed heavily on my shoulders for weeks. You can bet I Googled the crap out of everything I could think of: colic, gas, reflux, allergies, normal baby syndrome. From there I moved onto actual research, which convinced me that my son had silent reflux and it could be fixed by either diet or medication. I stopped eating everything except turkey, rice, squash, and sweet potatoes (and I don’t even like turkey). My son was still suffering. It wasn’t working fast enough, if at all. That’s when I marched into the doctor’s office for the umpteenth time and said “My son has GERD. Give him medicine.” And the doctor did.

I wish the story ended there with magical relief and a cure. In reality it took quite some time to get him feeling better, but the medication did help. It got us over the hump until we could control his symptoms through diet.

The experience piqued my interest in several things: the number of babies that suffer from reflux as newborns, the number of doctors who don’t know anything about infant reflux, and the staggering amount in which medication for reflux is blindly prescribed. Earlier this month I was reading an article about these exact phenomena’s that struck me deeply. Research recently published in the journal Pediatrics reports that parents are much more likely to choose medication for their infant if they are given the diagnosis of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), as opposed to not being given any diagnosis.

To me this intrinsically makes sense. If you’re told your child has a disease, of course it’s more likely you’d give them medication to treat it. The part that struck me however was that parents were more likely to give their infant medication even if they were also told it wouldn’t help. I can completely relate: when you’re child is hurting and suffering you will do absolutely anything that might help, even if it’s a long shot. But the part that’s a bit frightening in this whole scenario is how much lies in the words of the doctor. The way the doctor presents the situation and the treatment can result in parents choosing vastly different course of treatment. As parents, it’s necessary that we trust our pediatricians, but what if they’re unaware of the impact they’re making simply by naming a problem?

Would you give your child medication if you were told it wouldn’t help? What if you were given the name of a disease?

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