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Using ranitidine for babies is generally considered safe, although it should still be used only when needed. Ranitidine is a common antacid medication which goes by various brand names. It is most often used in babies to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in infants who have pain due to an overproduction of stomach acid. This drug is also commonly used to treat adults with similar conditions, although it is given in higher doses.
When given in the right amount, there are usually no safety issues in using ranitidine for infants. Even newborns can be prescribed this drug without much concern of side effects. Dosage is typically dictated by the child's weight, so very young infants will receive a smaller dosage than older babies who weight more. In some cases, even a higher dose will be used if symptoms do not improve.
Even though the safety of ranitidine for babies has been established, there is still some risk of side effects. Most babies will not experience any negative reactions to this drug, but some may become a little tired with each dose. Those who are taking too high of a dosage average dosage for their size may also experience diarrhea. Continued use of antacids has been linked with certain digestive disorders, such as malabsorption of nutrients. Any baby who begins losing weight, refusing to eat, or who regresses in skills after beginning an antacid treatment should be checked by a physician.
The use of ranitidine for babies is intended for those with actual GERD and not those who simply spit up a lot. If a baby is not crying and does not appear to be in pain after spitting up, then there is no need for him or her to take an antacid. Ranitidine does not prevent spitting up. It only works to neutralizes stomach acid by minimizing its production, thus relieving the burning sensation which may be experienced by infants with true GERD.
Some doctors will occasionally diagnose a baby with silent reflux disease and prescribe ranitidine for babies who do not exhibit most symptoms. These infants may become extra fussy around feeding time and appear to be in pain, but no spitting up is apparent. Although silent reflux does occur, any infant who does not improve in symptoms within two weeks of beginning an antacid therapy probably does not have reflux disease. Colic, chronic gas, or milk sensitivities are all possible explanations for a crying baby.