Newswise — By: Wendy Anderson-Willis, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician, Nationwide Children’s HospitalDid you know the number one reason children complain about chest pain is because they actually have heartburn? A lot of people believe that adults are the only ones who get it, but I have been seeing more and more children complain about heartburn, and there are some common reasons why. Heartburn often creates an uncomfortable burning feeling behind the breastbone. It has nothing to do with your heart, but everything to do with your stomach and esophagus.

There are plenty of children who like to eat spicy foods. From hot sauce to salsa to ‘hot chips’ and ‘hot popcorn’, these types of foods are included in the diets of many of the children that I see who complain of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or heartburn. There are plenty of other foods however that I think parents might be surprised to realize that they can trigger it.

Surprising foods for parents to watch out for:• Mints and gum• Ibuprofen• Fried food like chicken nuggets, french fries• Junk food like doughnuts• Pop, coffee and caffeinated energy drinks• Acidic foods like orange juice and tomato sauce

Symptoms of GERD or heartburn can often include chest pain, stomach aches, nausea, hoarseness or scratchy throat, sour burps, night cough, etc. These can be brought on by stress, medications, eating large meals and even eating and lying down right after the meal.

Reducing how often your children have these types of foods plus encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables will help. Try to get your child to eat several smaller meals throughout the day and don’t allow him/her to skip meals. Also, more exercise, drinking more water and reducing any stress are good tactics to stop the triggers of heartburn.

There are many kinds medications that can help children. Acid blockers and reducers will quell any symptoms that come up. If this is the first time your child has complained about these kinds of symptoms I would check with your pediatrician before giving your children any type of over the counter medicines that treats heartburn. You will want to make sure more serious problems can be ruled out. It will be helpful if you keep a list of when and under what circumstances these symptoms have appeared. It will also be helpful if you give your doctor an example of how meals go at your house, are you commonly going through drive-thru’s? Do you have a well balanced meal each and every day? This insight will help your doctor determine what else to recommend in terms of lifestyle changes.