NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Acid reflux is usually considered an adult disease, but it also is now on the rise in children – and often with more severe symptoms.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, when Sophie Parker had just started kindergarten, she began complaining daily of a sore throat and a stomachache.

“Honestly, I thought that she was faking it, because I thought she didn’t want to go to school,” said her mother, Mara Parker.

Parker’s son, Max, had very different symptoms.

“He was doubled over in pain, clutching his chest — you know, saying it was hard to breathe,” she said.

The diagnosis for both Parker kids turned out to be acid reflux.

“I was very surprised,” Mara Parker said. “I never heard of kids getting it.”

But Sophie and Max are not alone. More kids are needing treatment for acid reflux, Gomez reported.

“Over the past couple of years, I would say that it has increased probably about 50 percent in the amount of patients that we’re seeing,” said Kristi King of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“We see it from newborn, even premature infants to the children going to college,” added pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Karla Au Yeung. “We don’t know how to prevent it from ever coming on, because we don’t exactly know what starts it for a lot of people.”

And in many cases, children’s symptoms are more severe, experts said.

“Some patients might have problems with breathing, some might throw up, and some — for children — might not be able to eat enough to gain weight properly,” Yeung said.

The best way to treat reflux in kids is to start by modifying their diets.

“Consuming foods that are really high in fat, that are very spicy, that are very acidic can all cause gastric reflux to be even worse. Carbonated beverages can also make reflux worse for kids,” King said.

Lifestyle modifications can also help, including smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, avoiding eating too close to bedtime, and getting an hour each day — since being overweight can also aggravate symptoms.

Sophie’s symptoms stopped when she was 10, but Max remains on twice-daily medication.

“We’ll just kind of have to wait and see,” Mara Parker said.

Because reflux symptoms can change and vary with age, it is hard to know exactly how many kids actually have it.

But if lifestyle modifications do not alleviate symptoms, kids may need over-the-counter or even prescription medication, and in some rare cases, surgery.

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