Acid Reflux Symptoms

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

Q. I am 15 years old and have had breathing difficulties occasionally, usually accompanied by uncontrollable burping. Doctors say I don't appear to have asthma and today as soon as I woke up I drank a small amount of cola, which caused a severe pain in the upper part of my stomach. My school nurse thinks I may have an acid reflux condition. Do these symptoms point to acid reflux or anything else in particular?

A. Your symptoms of pain in your upper stomach certainly sounds like reflux and should be evaluated by either a barium study or an endoscopy, tests which are usually performed by a specialist in diseases of the stomach (gastroenterologist). Sometimes, if reflux is especially severe, small amounts of acid can get into your lungs and cause the sensation of difficulty breathing.

It is unusual, however, for a 15-year-old to get reflux and a question that comes to mind is whether you are overweight. Having a large stomach can "push up" on your stomach and cause some of the contents to reflux or move backward into the esophagus. This happens especially at night when you are lying flat. Other tips besides weight loss are to raise the head of your bed with some blocks, and not eat certain foods, especially later at night (such as caffeine or carbonation found in colas). You may need to take medicine which is, fortunately, quite safe even if used for long periods of time.