There is a number of heartburn medicine over the counter to help ease the symptoms. We all know how uncomfortable and painful heartburn is so immediate treatment by taking the OTC medicine is necessary before we see the doctors in case the pain remains longer.
Heartburn or also known as GERD is a gastroesophageal reflux disease which is mostly caused by eating the wrong food like spicy food. As a result, the stomach acid moves upward and makes the chest and upper stomach area feels like burnt.
The easiest and quickest way to ease the pain is by taking the medicine. Here is a list of non-prescription medicines we can use to treat the heartburn.
The best known yet the oldest medicine for heartburn is antacid. It is very popular since it is fast acting and cheap. Of course, since it is a OTC medicine, no prescription is needed to purchase it in the pharmacy.
Some of the medicines containing antacids include Mylanta, Tums, Rolaids and Maalox. In particular, the antacid works by neutralizing the acids in the stomach. Usually, it is consumed once the heartburn has started already. This can be considered as among the best cures to put out the fire caused by spicy foods.
Antacids are available in several forms including liquids and tablets. Most people choose liquid as it is considered faster in acting compared to the tablets. The right way to consume tablet is by chewing it well before swallowing. After being consumed, this medicine starts to work within 5 minutes or so. The relief may remain for hours and days. However, what antacids cannot do is healing the damage in esophagus or preventing any future bouts.
Just like other medicine, antacids also have some side effects though they are minor indeed. If this medicine is consumed very frequently, it may cause constipation or diarrhea. And, it is necessary to talk to doctor before taking it if you have kidney or heart problem. Overall, antacids make great medicine to treat mild and moderate heartburn. However, if the heartburn is quite severe, stronger medicine may be necessary.
Histamine 2 Blockers
Histamine 2 Blockers represent another heartburn drug that can be purchased without prescription. They work by reducing the acid amount in the stomach through the blocking of histamine which is the particular organic compound that tells the stomach to produce more acid.
Some brand names of this medicine are Zantac 75, Axid AR, Pepcid AC and Tagamet HB. Since 1970, these medicines have been around and considered safe to consume. According to the doctor, Histamine 2 Blockers can be used as maximum as 2 weeks for heartburn short term relief.
Compared to antacids, these medicines are stronger so their effects last longer. And, they can also prevent the production of acid in the stomach. Other things they can do is heal the esophageal lining. Usually, the medicines are consumed once or twice daily to prevent and treat the mild reflux. However, they also have some side effects like vomiting, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness and headache.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Also known as PPIs, this particular medicine has been available starting from 1989. It works by blocking the enzyme that produces acid in the stomach’s lining. It also has another function which is to help the esophagus lining. Therefore, it is a more effective option than H2 Blockers. The only brand name containing PPIs that is available over the counter is Prilosec OTC while other brand names have to be purchased with prescription.
A bit different to antacids and H2 Blockers, the PPIs require time to start working. In fact, it may take as long as 24 hours until the effect takes place. But it doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of PPIs that can treat even the severe heartburn. Like the previous medicines, there are also some side effects of this medicine including stomach pain and diarrhea.
Combination of OTC Products
Combining the OTC products has been becoming a common practice among those who have regular heartburn or GERD. For instance, they may combine H2 Blockers, antacids and PPIs which mean they may consume different medicine every time the heartburn attacks.
They choose which medicine to consume according to the level of severity of the heartburn that comes at that time. However, in some cases, this frequent combination may cause side effects like constipation and diarrhea. Therefore, it is important to talk to doctors before combining of these products.
Prescription vs OTC Drugs for Heartburn
So you wonder, which one is actually better for heartburn. Is it the prescribed or OTC medicine? Well, the answer is basically depending on the severity and frequency of the symptoms. For instance, in case of mild and not very frequent symptoms, the heartburn medicine over the counter works well already although they have lower dose. However, the severe symptoms may require prescribed medicine with higher dose for effective and quicker relief.