Kids, Parenting

Gag Reflex vs Gag Reflux – Differences Every Parent Must Know

Gag reflex and Gag Reflux are often considered to be same considering both of them have similar symptoms. However, there is a massive difference between these two.

Children are not fast eaters as we are. They are distracted most of the times. Getting distracted is an inborn quality which can be controlled and managed with time. Some children outgrow it as they grow and some take very long to acquire focus and concentration.
If your child is a slow or a picky eater then you must identify the reasons and try to make the mealtime less stressful for both of you. If your child is having some discomfort while having food then it’s very important for you to know that whether your child is having a reflux or a reflex.

What is Gag Reflex?

Reflexes are involuntary actions on which we don’t have any control. Humans are born with basic reflexes. As per Oxford Dictionary, a reflex is an action that is performed without conscious thought as a response to a stimulus.

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Normally, a gag reflex is our body’s protective response to prevent us from aspirating something that could cause us harm. In the case of children and toddlers, it is triggered by any unpleasant experience during meals. There can be many factors like:

  • Problems in chewing
  • Disliking the texture of the food
  • Disliking the taste of the food
  • Wanting to eat something else
  • Being force fed
  • Unwilling to eat

I wrote a detailed blog about Gag Reflex in Children and what can you do to prevent it.

What is Gag Reflux?

Gag reflux is a condition in which the contents of the stomach (sometimes including acid) moves upwards into the oesophagus (food pipe) and sometimes it travels up (acid reflux) into or out of the mouth (vomit).

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Frequent vomiting associated with discomfort and difficulty in feeding or weight loss may be caused by something more serious known as GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). If your child has vomiting or reflux atleast twice a week persistently for few weeks then it could be GERD.

It should be noted that a short-term gag reflux is not as serious as a GERD. GERD is a more prolonged condition of gag reflux and can persist for a long time. It may also require a medical intervention depending upon the severity of the symptoms.

What Causes Gag Reflux in Children?

Gag Reflux is very prominent in children born prematurely since they are born with an immature digestive system. Children usually grow out of it by their first birthday.

There is a muscle called as Lower Oesophageal Sphincter (LES) that acts as a valve between the oesophagus (food pipe) and stomach. When we swallow food, this muscle relaxes to make the food pass through the oesophagus to the stomach. This muscle normally stays closed, so the stomach contents don’t flow back into the oesophagus.
During gag reflux, LES becomes weak or relaxed when it shouldn’t and the stomach contents flow back up into the oesophagus.

Gag reflux in children and babies can happen due to several reasons:

  • Obesity
  • Overeating
  • Indigestion
  • Eating spicy or fried foods
  • Drinking caffeine or carbonated drinks
  • Specific medications
  • Any severe developmental delays
  • Food allergies
  • Some children may have weak valves that are sensitive to certain foods or spices which irritate the valves or cause inflammation, further resulting in reflux.

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Symptoms of Gag Reflux in Children

  • Many children don’t even notice reflux, but some children may feel the food coming back up with a burp or with a vomiting reflex.
  • Some children may also complain of stomach ache which actually is a heartburn or acidity.
  • Nausea and vomiting after meals.
  • Your child may complain of disturbed sleep due to bile moving up into his mouth.

If the reflux is severe or doesn’t get better, please consult your doctor without further delay.

Preventing Gag Reflux

Gag reflux in children can be easily avoided unless it requires any medical intervention.

  • Don’t force feed your child or make him overeat
  • Prefer light foods for dinner
  • Don’t make your child eat heavy foods before any physical activity
  • Don’t let your child sleep or lie down right after meals
  • Increase fibre intake through salads and fruits
  • Get your child tested for food allergies and intolerances if you observe anything unusual like skin rashes, vomiting and nausea after consuming any food

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Disclaimer: This is not a medical advice. Author has shared the information from personal experience and the information shared by the doctors. Please consult your doctor if you notice any symptoms.
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25 thoughts on “Gag Reflex vs Gag Reflux – Differences Every Parent Must Know

  1. Whoa! I didn’t know about this at all! I am amazed upon discovering this…I have no words. Thank you for this post…. Everytime now that I will feed my daughter I will remember this.

  2. Amazing and insightful post. Tiny toddlers faced Gag Reflux during meals.Very useful and beneficial tips for Gag Reflux prevention. Great thoughts.

  3. Oh my god! As much as I go to parenting blogs, I get to know about so many things that I had not heard of before. This is good to learn and thanks for sharing difference between Gag reflex and Gag reflux.

  4. I can imagine reflux is so uncomfortable in adults then how would kids feel!! It’s important to understand the causes and how we can prevent it. Thanks for sharing difference between reflex and reflux. I’m sure most people may not know.

  5. Very helpful and thoughtfully written post. I actually didnt know about gag reflex. though we know it in common language but didnt know the cause of it and even the causes of Reflux.

  6. Wow ! I surely did not know the different between Gag Reflex and Gag Reflux. Thanks for sharing such a lovely write up. I am going to share it with my for them to know.

  7. The blog seems to be very informative with tips to prevent the Gag Reflux. I will take the tips mentioned in the blog and also bookmark it for future reference. Please keep sharing such useful info that will help parents and other also be aware of such medical terms.

  8. This post is so informative amd helpful. Every parent must be aware of this. You have done a great job here!

  9. No doubt we parents actually confused between reflex and reflux. And it’s not easy to rule. Thanks for sharing the detailed post gives clear idea how to deal with GERd in children

  10. I have learned this during the early pead’s visit, she explained me the same things and informed to identify the right condition based on the symptoms.
    Again a very insightful post.

  11. Good to know about GAG reflex and Reflux and how they are different. Dealing with kids having GERD is something quite new to me.

  12. Just one letter difference in the spelling and it changes the entire picture. Yes, I have seen kids going through both. It’s good that you wrote about this topic in detail.

  13. Helpful post! I have seen parents force feeding their children to the point where they vomit. We as parents need to understand the child knows his appetite most of the times.

  14. This is quite an insightful post. Many don’t realize the difference between the gag reflex, and reflux. The reflux action sometimes can be tedious when you are trying to feed them.

  15. Informative! I totally used to think that both are same…It’s needed for parents to know the difference. Thanks for the enlightenment.

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