How to Stop an Acid Reflux Attack

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Sometimes over-the-counter medicines such as Type 2 antihistamines can help you stop an acid reflux attack in its tracks. Learn your short-term and long-term options in this free video on living with acid reflux.

Part of the Video Series: Living with Acid Reflux
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. David Hill, and today we're going to be talking about how to stop an acid reflux attack. Now, when we want to know how to stop an acid reflux attack. We also want to think, how do you know, you're having an acid reflux attack. And this is a little frightening to doctors. Because a lot of people who actually have heart disease, attribute their chest pain to acid reflux, instead. So, we want to stop and ask, are you somebody who is at high risk for heart disease or for a typical presentation of heart disease. If you're a middle aged or older woman, it's somewhat dangerous to assume the chest pain you're having, is from heart disease, is from reflux. Women tend to have a typical chest pain with their heart disease, that they may attribute to reflux. If you have a history of diabetes, if you are a smoker, if you have high cholesterol levels or a strong family history of heart disease. I would encourage you, not to assume that your chest pain is from reflux. Now, if you want to try something, I would reach for the good old fashioned anti-acids, first-line, in the middle of an attack. They're not great medications for controlling reflux, especially in the long term,they're actually pretty lousy. But in the short term, right now, at the moment, they do exactly what they say they do. These are bases, a chemical that's the opposite of an acid, that interacts with the acid in the stomach and neutralizes the pH, makes it closer to water. And less like the hydrochloric acid that our stomach lining secretes, in order to digest food. These things may give you very quick relief. Now, there are two other classes of medications that are also over-the-counter and can be dramatically helpful. One, is called a Type 2 antihistamines, is that good for allergies? No, it's good for reflux, these are medicines you've heard of. Zantac, Pepcid AC, those are two very common examples. If you look at the generic names, they usually end in something adine, Ranitidine, Nizatidine, are two of the most popular. But there are few others that are also over-the-counter. These are good for short term control, they're not great for long term control. Because a lot of people, after they take them for a few weeks, start to become acclimated to the medicines, they stop working so well. The most potent class of medications we have, now has one member over-the-counter and that is the Proton pump inhibitors. The over-the-counter version is called Omeprazole, the brand name is Prilosec. And one of these or two of these, twice a day, may be very helpful in long term control of reflux. That said, if you're needing that sort of medication for more than a couple of weeks, it's certainly time to see a doctor. Reflux can be a very serious condition, it can cause scarring of the esophagus, that makes it difficult to swallow in the future. It can cause a pre-cancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus. And Barrett's esophagus, if untreated can progress to esophageal cancer, which of course, can be deadly. So, this is not something that you want to mess around with. For where weeks or months on end, without seeking a doctor's opinion. Because if you need help, you really do need help. Talking about how to stop an acid reflux attack, I'm Dr. David Hill.


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