(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Babies will be babies, said Dr. Eric Hassall, staff pediatric gastroenterologist at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco. They cry and spit up.
Hassall strongly reiterates that point in a commentary he published in the Journal of Pediatrics in which he expresses worry over the drastic rise in the number of parents giving acid reflux medication to their infants in an attempt to keep them from spitting up.
Hassall found that the use of proton pump inhibitors, a group of drugs meant to reduce gastric acid production, grew exponentially for babies less than a year old over the past decade.
He blames advertising and pharmaceutical company promotion for the increase, as well as misleading misdiagnoses. One study that analyzed data of more than one million babies found a sevenfold increase in the amount of acid reflux medication prescribed to infants between 1999 and 2004. About .5 percent of the infants studied in the research received the medication within the first year of their lives, and half of those babies received the drugs before they were 4 months old.
While it is difficult for parents to watch their child scream and spit up from perceived pain, Hassall emphasized that spitting up and crying in an otherwise healthy baby is normal. Despite this, babies are increasingly getting misdiagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a condition in which food and liquid in the stomach leak backward into the esophagus.
"In the absence of better information and physician guidance, and fed by advertising and misinformation on the Internet, parent blogs have increasingly promoted the ''my-baby-has-acid-reflux-and-needs-drugs' concept," Hassall said in a statement. "Parents, concerned by their infant's symptoms of apparent suffering take their concern to doctors, who very frequently comply and prescribe acid-suppressing medications for symptoms and signs that in most cases are not GERD. GERD-mania is in full cry, so to speak."
The FDA has not approved these drugs for children under a year old because no studies have found them effective in that population.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio