Home treatment, such as lifestyle
changes and nonprescription medicines, may be all that is needed to treat mild
to moderate heartburn. But if your symptoms do not get better with home
treatment, or if your symptoms occur frequently,
see your doctor to find out whether other medical conditions may be causing
Keep a record of your heartburn symptoms before and
after making lifestyle changes or using nonprescription medicines so you can
discuss any improvement with your doctor. See an example of a
heartburn symptom record(What is a PDF document?).
If you are pregnant and have heartburn symptoms, be sure to
talk to your doctor before you take any heartburn medicines. Some medicines may
not be safe to take while you are pregnant. For more information, see the topic
Many people take nonprescription antacids for mild or occasional heartburn. If you use antacids more than just once
in a while, talk with your doctor.
- Antacids such as Tums, Mylanta, or Maalox neutralize some of the stomach acid for 30 minutes to 2 hours,
depending on whether the stomach is full or empty. Liquid or dissolving antacids usually work faster than tablet
- Some antacids, such as Gaviscon, have a foaming agent (alginate) that acts as a barrier between stomach
acid and the esophagus.
- Antacids such as Pepto-Bismol coat the esophagus and act as a barrier to reflux acid. Pepto-Bismol should
not be used for more than 3 weeks and you should not take it if you can't take aspirin. It may make your tongue
or stools black. The black color is usually not serious. Brushing your teeth and tongue after taking Pepto-Bismol
may keep your tongue from turning black. Ask
your doctor if your child younger than age 12 should take this medicine.
Antacids work faster than acid reducers (H2 blockers), but their effect does not last more than 1 to 2 hours. H2
blockers can provide relief for up to 12 hours.
Antacids do have side effects. They may cause diarrhea or constipation. Also, antacids can interfere with how your
body absorbs other medicines.
If you have any health risks, talk with your doctor before you start taking an antacid. If you have kidney disease, it
is especially important to discuss antacid use with your doctor. Regular use of antacids that contain magnesium or
aluminum can cause a dangerous buildup of magnesium or aluminum in people who have kidney disease.
Stomach acid reducers
Acid reducers, also called histamine receptor (or H2) blockers, decrease the amount of acid that the stomach makes,
which may reduce irritation to the stomach lining and decrease heartburn. Some examples of nonprescription acid
reducers are Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, Zantac 75, and Axid AR. Talk with your doctor if you take an H2 blocker for
more than 2 weeks.
Proton pump inhibitors
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as omeprazole (for example, Prilosec), reduce stomach acid and effectively
treat severe heartburn symptoms. These acid-reducing medicines are used when your heartburn has not gotten
better with other home treatment measures, antacids, or H2 blockers. You may need to use a PPI for up to 5 days
before you have relief of your heartburn, but they are safe to use for long-term management. They also are safe to
use if you have kidney or liver problems. PPIs are available without a prescription.
Acid reducers can sometimes change the way other medicines work. If you are taking prescription medicines, be
sure to talk with your doctor before you take a nonprescription acid reducer.