Indigestion often goes away on its own within several hours. Home treatments are usually enough to treat indigestion in children. These may include modifications to diet, lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as antacids.
Indigestion, or dyspepsia, is a general term that refers to pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen that may occur once, occasionally, or often.
Doctors often associate it with eating or drinking. Indigestion is usually minor, and symptoms are manageable with home treatments and OTC medications.
Read on to learn more about different indigestion treatments for toddlers and alternative remedies available.
The goal of treatment for indigestion or dyspepsia is to provide relief from symptoms and treat the underlying cause.
The specific treatment will depend on the child’s symptoms. Doctors may use more than one treatment to provide symptomatic relief.
Modifications to diet include may include avoiding certain foods and drinks, such as:
- high fat foods
- carbonated drinks
- citrus and tomato products
How this helps
A balanced diet can improve overall health, promote digestion, and may help prevent heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
These changes may help improve indigestion primarily when parents, caregivers, or doctors associate certain food or drink intake with the onset of symptoms.
Below are some lifestyle modifications that may help prevent frequent indigestion or manage its symptoms:
- not letting a child lie down within 3 hours of a meal
- keeping the child’s head elevated while they sleep
- feeding a child with smaller meals instead of a few large meals
How this helps
These lifestyle changes may help if a doctor has diagnosed GER or GERD as a possible cause of a child’s indigestion.
Doctors may prescribe medications to help manage indigestion. Some are available over the counter, while others are prescription.
A parent or caregiver should not give a toddler any medication without consulting their pediatrician, and the use of certain drugs may be off-label in toddlers.
If the cause of indigestion is GER or GERD, some of the medications may
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs reduce the acid the stomach makes. It may cause side effects such as an upset stomach, headache, or diarrhea.
- H2 blockers: H2 blockers also lower the amount of acid the stomach makes, but they do not work as well as PPIs in helping heal the esophagus. They may cause side effects such as diarrhea, headaches, and an increased risk of certain infections.
- Antacids: Antacids are short-acting drugs that can help relieve mild GER and GERD but also have side effects such as constipation and diarrhea. Children should not use them long term.
In some children, complaints are due to behavioral or psychological issues. In such cases, the following treatments may be beneficial:
- making environmental modifications, such as keeping the environment stress-free
- practicing stress reduction and relaxation techniques
If indigestion happens because of GERD, doctors may recommend surgery if the child does not respond to conservative treatments.
The standard surgical approach for GERD for adults and children is laparoscopic surgery. It is a minimally invasive procedure that strengthens the lower sphincter between the stomach and esophagus.
A parent or caregiver needs to be aware of the possible complications, which can include:
- damage to organs and other structures
- difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) for a few months
- gas embolism
Parents or caregivers looking for other ways to manage their child’s indigestion may try home remedies. However, they should first ask their doctors before ingesting or doing anything.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that some remedies worth trying are:
- peppermint oil
- chamomile tea and other herbal teas
- ginger, lemon, and honey
- baking soda
- licorice root
- apple cider vinegar
- mint leaves
- aloe vera juice
- fennel seed
The above remedies are low risk, but it is important to consult a pediatrician before giving a child any supplements or medications.
Indigestion may also be a symptom of a serious underlying condition. It is essential to consult a doctor right away if any of the
- black stool
- bloody vomit
- difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- painful swallowing (odynophagia)
- weight loss without trying
- pain that wakes the child from sleep
- shortness of breath
- yellowish skin or eyes (jaundice)
- persistent or recurrent fever higher than 101°F, or 38°C
Diagnosis of functional dyspepsia
Doctors refer to recurring or persistent upper mid-abdominal pain, usually associated with eating or drinking, as “functional dyspepsia.”
Doctors are likely to diagnose functional dyspepsia in a child who displays the following:
- persistent or recurrent pain or discomfort centered in the upper abdomen
- no evidence that defecation relieves dyspepsia or is associated with the onset of a change in stool frequency or stool form
- no evidence of an inflammatory, anatomic, metabolic, or neoplastic process as the cause
Persistent or recurrent indigestion in a child under 5 years old is more likely due to an identifiable (structural) cause or medical condition.
Below are some commonly asked questions.
How do I neutralize my toddler’s stomach acid?
Home remedies such as baking soda and OTC medications such as antacids may be safe. Some antacids contain aspirin, which is mostly contraindicated in children.
A parent or caregiver should always contact a doctor before giving these medications. These may or may not be a good treatment for indigestion in toddlers, depending on the cause and other factors.
Lifestyle changes such as eating small meals and elevating the head may also help.
What can I give my toddler for indigestion?
Many OTC acid reducers, such as antacids and omeprazole, are safe for children. However, it is best to ask a doctor about the best treatment for the child.
What causes indigestion in toddlers?
Indigestion can happen as a result of multiple factors. Some examples include:
- abnormal motility
- microbiome differences due to diet and genetics
- highly sensitive nerves in the gastrointestinal tract (visceral hypersensitivity)
- food sensitivity
Can 2-year-olds get indigestion?
Indigestion can happen in everyone, including toddlers and children. Functional dyspepsia is
Indigestion in children is a common yet treatable condition. Most cases are manageable with lifestyle changes and home remedies. However, if these treatments do not work or the child is experiencing more severe symptoms, it is crucial to speak with a doctor for further treatment.