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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist About Heartburn Relief

5. How long does it take for heartburn treatment to work?

The answer depends on whether you're about to try an over-the-counter antacid or a long-term prescription drug. Each heartburn treatment works differently, but in general:

  • Antacids like Tums work instantly, but wear off quickly. Antacids work best if taken 30 to 60 minutes before eating.
  • Histamine blockers take effect in about an hour, but must be taken twice a day for heartburn prevention.

Proton pump inhibitors are the most powerful drugs, but may not provide immediate relief because they act slowly. These drugs must be taken every day to be effective.

6. Could my heartburn treatment interfere with other medications I'm taking?

Some medications need at least a little bit of stomach acidity to break down and be absorbed by your body. Ask your pharmacist about the specific drugs you're taking, so you can try a heartburn treatment that won't interfere with absorption of these other drugs.

7. When should I see my doctor?

Your pharmacist can answer questions about medications, side effects, and drug interactions, but can't prescribe new medications for heartburn. So see your doctor if you think you should change your medication type, dose, or brand. Never stop taking a medication without first checking with your doctor, because suddenly stopping some drugs can cause medical complications.

You should schedule a visit with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms more than twice/week, your heartburn is increasing in frequency or severity or if it persists even after taking non-prescription or prescription medications.

Call your doctor if you experience chest pain that isn't caused by heartburn or if you aren't sure. A surprising number of people having mild heart attacks dismiss their chest pain as heartburn.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 24, 2014
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