Taking Antacids May Be Risky

Medically Reviewed

Do you use antacids such as Alka-Seltzer or Bromo Seltzer to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, or a sour stomach? If so, you could be setting yourself up for serious gastric bleeding.

The FDA is warning that those antacids and similar over-the-counter antacid products containing aspirin pose a rare, but serious, bleeding risk for adults 60 years and older.

You also have an increased risk of bleeding if you have a history of stomach ulcers or bleeding; use blood thinners, steroids, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen; or drink three or more alcoholic drinks a day.

You may be better off reaching for an antacid that doesn’t contain aspirin. Look for a product that contains only an antacid, such as calcium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide.

The FDA first issued a warning in 2009 about the risk of serious bleeding associated with aspirin and other NSAIDs. It’s easy enough to avoid those products, but you might not be aware of their presence in an antacid unless you look carefully at the drug label.

Since the FDA issued its initial warning, it has received reports of eight people with bleeding serious enough to require hospitalization after using aspirin-containing antacids.

If you take an over-the-counter antacid on a regular basis, you should probably talk to your doctor about it—chronic heartburn is not normal and may need more focused medical intervention.

Learn more about How to Take Heartburn Drugs Correctly and Heartburn and Other GERD Symptoms.