Symptoms of GERD include a painful burning in the middle of your chest, feeling and tasting food from your stomach backing up into your throat or mouth, and difficulty swallowing.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that causes the contents of your stomach to wash back up into your esophagus, throat, and mouth.

GERD is considered to be chronic if symptoms occur more than twice per week or last for weeks or months.

This article takes a closer look at symptoms of GERD and how they affect adults, infants, and older children.

Symptoms of GERD in adults include:

  • burning pain in your chest
  • bitter or sour taste in your mouth
  • eroding tooth enamel
  • coughing, wheezing, or difficulty swallowing when lying down

Burning pain in your chest

The most common symptom of GERD is a burning feeling in the middle of your chest or at the top of your stomach. Chest pain from GERD, also called heartburn, can be so intense that people sometimes wonder if they’re having a heart attack.

But unlike the pain from a heart attack, GERD chest pain usually feels like it’s just under your skin, and it may seem to radiate from your stomach up to your throat instead of down your left arm.

Find out the other differences between GERD and heartburn.

Bitter or sour taste in your mouth

You could also have a bitter or sour taste in your mouth. That’s because food or stomach acid may have come up your esophagus and into the back of your throat.

It’s also possible you have laryngopharyngeal reflux instead of, or at the same time as, GERD. In this case, symptoms involve your throat, larynx, voice, and nasal passages.

Coughing, wheezing, or difficulty swallowing, especially when lying down

It may be hard to swallow, and you may cough or wheeze after eating, especially at night or when you lie down. Some people with GERD also feel nauseated.

Eroding teeth enamel

Not everyone with GERD experiences digestive symptoms. For some people, the first sign might be damage to tooth enamel. If stomach acid comes back up into your mouth often enough, it can wear away the surface of your teeth.

If your dentist says that your enamel is eroding, there are things you can do to keep it from getting worse, including:

  • chewing over-the-counter antacids to neutralize acid in your saliva
  • rinsing out your mouth with water and baking soda after you have acid reflux
  • using a fluoride rinse to “remineralize” any scratches on your teeth
  • switching to a nonabrasive toothpaste
  • chewing gum with xylitol to increase the flow of your saliva
  • wearing a dental guard at night

What can you do to avoid triggering GERD symptoms?

To keep GERD symptoms to a minimum, you can try to make some lifestyle changes, including:

  • eating smaller meals
  • limiting citrus, caffeine, chocolate, and high fat foods
  • adding foods to improve digestion
  • drinking water instead of carbonated drinks and alcohol
  • avoiding late-night meals and tight clothing
  • keeping upright for at least 2 hours after eating
  • raising the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches using risers, blocks, or wedges
  • stop smoking, if you smoke

Read this article for more tips on managing GERD.

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Common GERD symptoms in babies include:

  • spitting up more than normal
  • coughing and gagging while eating
  • showing signs of discomfort after eating
  • trouble falling asleep
  • reluctance to eat and weight loss

Spitting up more than normal

According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, healthy babies could have normal reflux several times daily, and most outgrow it by the time they’re 18 months old.

A change in how much, how often, or how forcefully your baby spits up could indicate a problem, especially when they’re older than 24 months.

Coughing and gagging while eating

When the contents of the stomach come back up, your baby could cough, choke, or gag. If the reflux goes into the windpipe, it could even lead to difficulty breathing or repeated lung infections.

Showings signs of discomfort after eating

Babies with GERD may also show signs of discomfort while they’re eating or right afterward. They might arch their backs. They might have colic — periods of crying that last longer than 3 hours per day.

Trouble staying asleep

When babies lie flat, the backflow of fluids can be uncomfortable. They may wake up in distress throughout the night.

Steps you can take to alleviate these sleep disturbances include raising the head of their crib and changing their eating or sleeping schedule.

Reluctance to eat and weight loss

When eating is uncomfortable, babies may turn away food and milk. You or your doctor might notice that your baby isn’t gaining weight at the right pace or is even losing weight.

There are several things you can do to help your baby with these symptoms, including:

  • feeding smaller amounts more often
  • switching formula brands or types
  • eliminating some animal products, such as beef, eggs, and dairy, from your own diet if you breastfeed
  • changing the size of the nipple opening on the bottle
  • burping your baby more often
  • keeping your baby upright for at least a half hour after eating

If these strategies don’t help, ask your baby’s pediatrician about trying an approved acid-reducing medication for a short period.

GERD symptoms in older kids and teens are similar to those in babies and adults. Children may have abdominal pain or discomfort after eating. It may be hard for them to swallow, and they may feel nauseated or even vomit after they eat.

Some children with GERD may belch a lot or sound hoarse. Older children and teenagers may also have heartburn or trouble breathing after they eat. If children start associating food with discomfort, they may resist eating.

The acid produced by your stomach is strong. If your esophagus is exposed to it too much, you could develop esophagitis, an irritation of the lining of your esophagus.

You could also get reflux laryngitis, a voice disorder that makes you hoarse and leaves you feeling that you have a lump in your throat.

Abnormal cells could grow in your esophagus, a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which can, in rare cases, lead to cancer.

And your esophagus could be scarred, forming esophageal strictures that limit your ability to eat and drink the way you used to.

When should you seek help from a doctor?

The American College of Gastroenterology recommends that you see a doctor if you use over-the-counter medications to help with GERD symptoms more than twice a week.

Your doctor might prescribe:

Your doctor might also recommend surgery, which involves creating a valve at the bottom of the esophagus to prevent acid from backing up into it.

Treatments for children with GERD symptoms are similar.

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The symptoms of GERD can be uncomfortable for those of all ages. If left unchecked, symptoms of GERD can even lead to long-term damage to parts of your digestive system.

However, you may be able to manage and greatly minimize symptoms of GERD by changing some basic habits.

If these changes don’t fully relieve your or your child’s symptoms, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to reduce acid reflux or surgically repair the ring of muscle that’s allowing the backflow into your esophagus.