Love pizza but hate the acid reflux symptoms? Follow our guide to know when an over-the-counter remedy is enough and when to go prescription.
If popping an over-the-counter antacid isn’t solving your heartburn problem, should you talk to your doctor about a stronger fix? Here, learn the facts on which treatment route might be best for you.
For new or infrequent acid reflux, go for over-the-counter.
That burning sensation in your chest or a sour taste in the back of your throat that seems to crop up only sometimes, especially after large, spicy, or fatty meals, can typically be eased with an over-the-counter (OTC) antacid or H2-blocker. If symptoms persist or worsen, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) can also provide relief.
Antacids, like Tums and Mylanta, neutralize stomach acid (the stuff that creeps up into your esophagus and causes symptoms) to give you quick relief for mild heartburn. Liquid forms tend to work faster than chewable tablets.
If your symptoms are more moderate, choose a low-dose, OTC H2-blocker, like Zantac (ranitidine) or Pepcid AC (famotidine). H2-blockers ease heartburn by reducing the amount of acid created by the glands in the stomach lining. Less acid in your stomach means less acid that’s able to travel up your esophagus and cause discomfort. If you know you’re going to be eating foods that have caused symptoms in the past, you can take an H2-blocker with your first meal of the day to guard against symptoms that may strike later.
Proton pump inhibitors
Severe or frequent heartburn that occurs at least twice a week and isn’t relieved with standard doses of antacids or H2-blockers may be treated with another OTC option called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). Common PPIs you can find on store shelves include Prevacid (lansoprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole). It takes several days of consistent dosing for PPIs to have a full effect on reducing stomach acid. OTC PPI’s should only be used for 14 days.
For long-lasting acid reflux, it may be time for a prescription.
If you find yourself needing an OTC PPI for more than two weeks and your symptoms are still bothering you, talk to a medical provider. You might be dealing with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and may need a prescription-strength acid reflux medication to not only relieve the burning sensation in your chest and throat, but also heal acid-related damage in your esophagus.
Additionally, prescription PPIs are used to treat peptic ulcers. A common risk factor of peptic ulcers is the chronic use of NSAID’s, such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin. If you are experiencing severe heartburn that tends to be relieved after eating a meal, contact your medical provider.
Prescription-strength acid reflux drugs typically have the same active ingredient as their OTC version, but at higher doses and for longer durations. If you’ve been experiencing severe acid reflux for more than two weeks, you should consult your medical provider, who may need to be evaluate your condition further to rule out other possible problems, such as peptic ulcers. Continuing to use OTC PPI’s without checking with your medical provider can lead to increased risk of side effects, including electrolyte imbalances, increased risk of bone fractures, and Clostridium difficile (C. diff) diarrhea. Your medical provider will be able to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks for long term PPI use and will be able to appropriately monitor your condition.
If you have symptoms of GERD and think a prescription acid reflux medication might help, talk to your doctor or have a digital consultation through Blink Health’s telemedicine service.
This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911. Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 536 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10012, (844) 366–2211, www.blinkhealth.com