Which OTC Meds Treat Heartburn?
There are a variety of heartburn medicines available over the counter to ease symptoms. If these don’t help enough, talk to your doctor about what else might help — in addition to lifestyle changes. Your doctor may want to see if gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is the cause of your symptoms.
Non-prescription medications used to treat heartburn include:
Antacids for Heartburn
Antacids neutralize stomach acid to cut down on heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion, and stomach upset. Some antacids also contain simethicone, an ingredient that helps your body get rid of gas. Some antacids contain ingredients that can cause diarrhea, such as magnesium, or constipation, such as aluminum.
Examples of antacids include:
- Milk of Magnesia
- Alternately, Amphojel
- Gaviscon, Gelusil, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids
You should take antacids precisely as directed by your doctor or according to the package label. If you use the tablets, chew them well before swallowing for faster relief.
Be sure to follow the directions on the label, so you don’t overdose or overuse antacids. Side effects include constipation, diarrhea, changes in the color of bowel movements, and stomach cramps.
Acid Reducers for Heartburn
Two types of drugs cut down on the production of acid in the stomach: histamine antagonists (H2 antagonists or H2 blockers) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
Examples of H2 blockers available over the counter include:
- Nizatidine (Axid AR)
- Famotidine (Pepcid AC)
- Cimetidine (Tagamet HB)
- Ranitidine (Zantac)
The proton-pump inhibitors esomeprazole (Nexium 24HR), lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR), and omeprazole (Prilosec OTC) are sold over-the-counter to treat frequent heartburn (two or more times per week) for 14 days. These types of medicines are also available as higher-strength prescriptions. Take them according to the directions on the package or as advised by your doctor.
If these medications don't relieve your symptoms, or if your heartburn symptoms get worse or last for longer than two weeks, you should see your doctor.
Combination Antacid/Acid Reducer for Heartburn
Pepcid Complete combines the acid-neutralizing capability of an antacid and the acid-reducing actions of an H2 blocker. Zegerid OTC combines a proton-pump inhibitor with sodium bicarbonate.
So Which Works Best for Heartburn?
All of these over-the-counter medicines, to a varying degree, can relieve the symptoms of heartburn. If you have more severe heartburn symptoms that these medications don’t reduce, or if you’ve been using these medicines for more than two weeks, call your doctor. You may need a stronger prescription medicine and tests to see what’s causing your symptoms.