There are probably very few people who can honestly say they have never suffered from heartburn because it only takes a little too much stomach acid to cause the contents to reflux up into the esophagus. However, there are people who do suffer from more serious conditions such as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder) or even a hiatal hernia which manifests in heartburn. For the common case of heartburn, there are a number of over the counter products which can be safely taken. However, keep in mind that the best heartburn medication over the counter products fall into two main categories for the most part, those that inhibit the production of stomach acid and those that neutralize it.
Antacids on the Heartburn Medication List
The first category of heartburn medication over the counter formulations is in a class known as antacids. These have been popular for decades and contain such medications such as Alka-Seltzer, Milk of Magnesia and Pepto-Bismol. Then there are those rolls of heartburn medication over the counter products such as Rolaids and Tums. Not to be forgotten, other medications that come in both liquid and chewable forms are Maalox and Mylanta. A few over the counter antacids also contain a chemical called simethicone which reduces excess gas.
Although these medications are sold liberally over the counter, side effects can occur such as cramps, diarrhea, constipation and change in color or consistency of bowel movements. Never take more antacids than directed as this can, and often does, promote unpleasant heartburn medication side effects. If your symptoms occur more than twice a week or refuse to go away after treating with a heartburn medication over the counter, consult with your doctor instead of increasing your dosage.
Acid Reducers on the Heartburn Medication Over the Counter List
There is a very real difference between acid reducers and antacids which you should be aware of. Acid reducers work by stopping the production of stomach acid whereas antacids simply neutralize acids in the stomach. Most acid reducers are called either H2 blockers or H2 antagonists and for a long time these were only available by prescription. Many are still available in prescription strength, but the OTC preparations can be easily found and are usually in lesser dosages than their prescription counterparts. Common examples of H2 antagonists/blockers are Pepcid AC, Axid AR, Zantac 75 and Tagamet HB.
Another type of acid reducer is a type of medication called a proton pump inhibitor. These are the newest types of heartburn medication and there are a few that have been approved by the FDA for over the counter sale. The two most popular OTC proton pump inhibitors are Prilosec OTC, Prevacid 24HR while the newest on the market is Zegerid OTC. None of these medications should ever be taken for a longer period of time than 14 days unless your doctor says otherwise. Make absolutely certain to follow the instructions on the packaging and if you have any questions consult with the pharmacist or your doctor before beginning treatment.
In fact, it is always recommended that you consult with your own personal physician before taking any medications at all. Some medications, even heartburn medication over the counter preparations, have adverse reactions when taken with other pharmaceuticals. Heartburn medication during pregnancy is also not advisable unless prescribed by your doctor. Don’t be fooled by the fact that the medication is sold over the counter. Some of these medications have not proven safe for the unborn child. Whether you take heartburn medication generic over the counter products or name brands, always read the labels thoroughly before taking the first dose and never take anything against the advice of your physician.