Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are drugs you can buy without a doctor’s prescription. If you suffer from frequent, recurring reflux, ask your doctor about using a medication called a proton pump inhibitor, or PPI. These medicines stop acid production in your stomach but do not take effect for 1 to 3 days. Some are available over the counter, including esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole read this (Prilosec). Other PPIs are available only with a prescription, such as pantoprazole (Protonix), rabeprazole (AcipHex) and dexlansoprazole (Kapidex). PPIs are the recommended initial treatment for GERD. Possible short-term side effects include headache, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and itching. Do not use an over-the-counter PPI for more than 2 weeks unless your doctor has advised you to do so.
Medicines that coat your esophagus and stomach may provide short-term relief of heartburn caused by reflux. Over-the-counter products typically contain the active ingredient bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol). Talk with your doctor before taking these products if you take a blood thinner, have a bleeding disorder or are allergic to aspirin. Your doctor may recommend the prescription medicine sucralfate (Carafate) if you have inflammation in your esophagus from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
There are a variety of medicines for acid reflux, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Some can deal with heartburn problems immediately. They include antacid tablets and liquids that can be taken when acid reflux first strikes. Other medicines, known as H2 blockers, help reduce acid production and can keep acid reflux away over a period of hours. There are also medications called proton pump inhibitors that can heal the esophagus when damaged from acid reflux and also control acid production.
Over-the-counter antacids provide quick heartburn relief by neutralizing stomach acid. The various antacids on the market contain one or more active ingredients, such as aluminum or magnesium hydroxide, calcium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate. Some antacid products also contain simethicone, which breaks down gas bubbles in your stomach to relieve bloating and belching. Others contain alginic acid, which foams in the stomach and may protect your esophagus from exposure to refluxed stomach contents. Although quick-acting, antacids are effective for just a few hours. Possible side effects if you use antacids frequently include constipation and diarrhea. Talk with your doctor before taking an antacid if you have kidney or heart disease, or high blood pressure.