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Why Doctors Overtreat Baby Reflux

It used to be, babies spit up. A lot. Now, babies have reflux. What changed? Nothing, according to some new studies, except that doctors started overdiagnosing this serious form of heartburn first in adults and now in babies.

Darshak Sanghavi writes in Slate that plenty of studies have shown that Nexium (you know it as “the little purple pill“) has been over-prescribed for years — so much so some doctors call it “purple crack” (digestive systems even grow dependent on it). Half of all hospital patients leave with a prescription for the stuff, no matter what they checked in for in the first place.

The over-prescription is the result, Sanghavi writes, of worldwide clinical laziness (this is happening outside of the U.S. as well). And it’s trickling down to even young, young babies.

The number of acid blockers for colicky babies recently quadrupled. Even though randomized studies have shown that these medicines do nothing for reflux (and we don’t even know what colic is!), other studies show that Nexium and Zantac “may increase brain bleeds and gut damage in preterm infants as well as the risk of food allergies in older infants.”

Your better off asking for an explanation — not a prescription — for you child’s condition, says Sanghavi, who is chief of pediatric cardiology and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

As for babies who spit up a lot? He says the average preemie has 70 minor spit-ups a day, yet fewer than one in 300 is actually damaging the esophagus.

Did your child take prescription heartburn meds?

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