Antacids are available without a prescription in liquid, chewable tablet, chewing gum, and dissolving tablet forms to be taken by mouth. Liquid antacids may relieve symptoms faster than other forms of antacids.
How It Works
Antacids make stomach juices less acidic (neutralize stomach acid).
Antacids with alginic acid (such as Gaviscon) contain a foaming agent that floats on top of the stomach contents. This may help keep stomach juices from coming in contact with your esophagus.
Antacids that contain simethicone (such as Maalox Anti-Gas or Mylanta Gas) may break down gas bubbles in your stomach. This may help reduce burping that might push stomach acid into your esophagus.
Why It Is Used
For people who have occasional, mild to moderate symptoms of heartburn, antacids are often all that is needed to control the symptoms.
Many doctors will recommend long-term use of antacids if they help relieve your heartburn. Do not use antacids for more than 2 weeks unless you have talked with your doctor about taking them on a long-term basis.
You can also take antacids to stop heartburn that happens from time to time when you are taking an acid reducer medicine (such as Prilosec).
Some antacids, such as Rolaids and Tums, contain calcium carbonate. These may help boost calcium intake in women who are concerned about developing osteoporosis.
How Well It Works
Antacids do not work the same for everyone. For people who have occasional, mild to moderate heartburn, antacids may work very well. For people who have severe GERD, antacids alone are unlikely to help.
If you want to take medicine only when your symptoms bother you, antacids are a good choice. They relieve symptoms quickly. A single dose of antacid often relieves heartburn for about an hour.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Call your doctor if you have:
Mood or mental changes.
Muscle pain, weakness, or twitching.
Problems or pain urinating.
Swelling of wrists or ankles.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
Constipation or diarrhea.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Antacids and acid reducers should not be taken within 1 hour of each another, because the antacid will slow down the effect of the acid reducer.
If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor or pharmacist before choosing an antacid. Some antacids have a high salt (sodium) content.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Women who are pregnant may also be told to avoid antacids that contain sodium. Those antacids can cause extra swelling.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.