Antacids and Acid Reducers – OTC Relief for Heartburn and Acid Reflux
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are medicines you can buy without a healthcare provider’s prescription. There are 3 types of OTC medicines that treat heartburn:
- Antacids reduce the effects of acid in your stomach. They do this by neutralizing the acid. Antacids can provide fast, short-term relief. There are many different brands of antacids. They come in the forms of chewable tablets, dissolving tablets, and liquid.
- H2 reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes. While they don’t relieve symptoms as quick as antacids, they do last longer. H2 blockers usually start to work within an hour. OTC example is famotidine (brand name: Pepcid).
- Proton pump inhibitors Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce your body’s production of acid. They work well for heartburn that isn’t resolved by antacids or H2 blockers. It may take a little longer for a PPI to help your symptoms, but relief will last longer. Most forms start working in a few days. PPIs are most helpful for people who have chronic heartburn (more than 2 days a week). Omeprazole (brand name: Prilosec) and lansoprazole (brand name: Prevacid 24HR) are examples of OTC PPIs.
Path to improved health
To find out which medicine is right for you, talk to your healthcare provider. They can tell you about the benefits and risks. Antacids and acid reducers rarely cause side effects. If they do, the side effects usually are minor and go away on their own. These may include headaches, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea.
Talk to your healthcare provider before taking antacids if you have kidney disease. You should avoid any antacid that contains calcium carbonate or aluminum hydroxide and magnesium carbonate unless your doctor recommends it.
Contact your healthcare provider before taking a proton pump inhibitor if:
- You are elderly or have immune system problems. Proton pump inhibitors may increase your risk for pneumonia.
- You are a postmenopausal woman. Proton pump inhibitors reduce calcium absorption and increase your risk for osteoporosis.
- You have been treated for a Clostridium difficile infection in the past. Proton pump inhibitors may increase the risk that your infection returns.
Things to consider
Don’t use more than 1 antacid or acid reducer at a time, unless your healthcare provider recommends it. Store all medicines up and away, out of reach and sight of young children. Keeping medicines in a cool, dry place will help prevent them from becoming less effective before their expiration dates. Do not store medicines in bathrooms or bathroom cabinets, which are often hot and humid.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
Let your healthcare provider know how the OTC medicines work for you. If your symptoms do not improve or get worse, your healthcare provider may suggest a prescription medicine. If possible, try not to take PPIs long-term. These can increase your risk of certain health conditions, such as osteoporosis, kidney disease, and dementia.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms. They may be signs of a more serious problem.
- Bloody or black stools
- Bloody vomit
- Heartburn that has not improved after 2 weeks of treatment with OTC medicines
- Trouble swallowing or pain when you swallow
- Unintended weight loss
If you have chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and pain in your arms, you may be having a heart attack. Call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.