Over-the-counter medications designed to manage stomach acid are the front-line treatment for GERD, notes Mayo Clinic. Frequently, these solve the problem within a few weeks. If they do not, other medications and surgical interventions are the next step.
Three different over-the-counter medications help patients dealing with stomach acid: antacids, H2-receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors. Antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, Gaviscon, Gelusil, Mylanta and Maalox bring swift relief of discomfort but do not address the inflammation in the esophagus from contact with stomach acid. Over time, antacid overuse leads to constipation or diarrhea in some patients, according to Mayo Clinic.
H2-receptor blockers decrease the amount of acid that the body produces. Some examples include Tagamet HB, Axid AR, Pepcid AC and Zantac. These act more slowly than antacids but often provide relief for a longer period of time, limiting acid production for as long as 12 hours. Doctors often prescribe stronger H2-receptor blockers when the over-the-counter varieties do not work, reports Mayo Clinic.
Proton pump inhibitors stop the production of stomach acid, giving the affected areas of the esophagus time to recover. Over-the-counter examples include Prilosec and Zegerid OTC as well as Prevacid 24 HR. Patients who take any of these three types of medicines for more than two or three weeks without relief should visit with their doctor, as stated by Mayo Clinic.