A joint study carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Missouri found that when doctors diagnose a baby's habit of vomiting and crying as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), parents are keen to ensure that they are given medication even when told that such drugs are ineffective.
Writing in their report, published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers said that GERD is being overdiagnosed and overtreated in infants. GERD is a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and the babies are often treated with acid-suppressing drugs, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). According to a report, the use of PPIs in infants under one year of age has increased by seven times between 1999 and 2004.
"Over-diagnosis of GERD can make a medical condition out of a normal behavior. When a set of behaviors is labeled a 'disease,' this can make parents think that medication is appropriate for their child, regardless of whether the drugs are effective or not. Doctors may feel the need to give parents a name for their child's problem, but by doing so they can inadvertently increase parents' perceived need for medical treatment. Parents should follow doctors' advice, which sometimes means accepting a doctor's explanation of why medications are not needed", Professor Laura Scherer, from MU psychological sciences, said.