What is heartburn?
Heartburn occurs when stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus—the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. Also called acid indigestion, heartburn is an uncomfortable, burning feeling in the mid-chest, behind the breastbone, or in the upper part of the abdomen—the area between the chest and the hips. This feeling occurs because the stomach’s digestive juices contain acid. Sometimes people with this problem can taste food or acidic fluid in the back of the mouth.
What are my OTC treatment options?
There are three classes of Over The Counter (OTC) medications for the treatment of heartburn.
- E.g. Gaviscon, Jawasil, Polygel
- Antacids help to treat mild heartburn (indigestion). They work by changing the stomach acid that causes heartburn.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
- E.g. Prevacid 24h (lansoprazole), Nexium 24h (esomeprazole), Omefast (omeprazole magnesium), Zegerid (omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate)
- OTC Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are used to treat frequent heartburn and work by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach. In contrast, prescription PPIs are used to treat conditions like gastoesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach and small intestine ulcers, and inflammation of the esophagus.
- OTC PPIs are only intended for a 14 day course of treatment and can be used up to 3 times per year.
- E.g. Tagamet HB (cimetidine), Pepcid Complete or Pepcid AC (famotidine), Axid AR (nizatidine), Zantac (ranitidine).
- H2 blockers work by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach.
How do I use these drugs safely and effectively?
- Read the label.
- Do not misuse, abuse, or take these medications for longer than stipulated on the label.
- If your heartburn symptoms persist even after taking these drugs, then talk to a health care professional.
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