Antacids For Children: Their Safety, Types And Side Effects

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Antacids are medications that neutralize gastric acids to relieve acid reflux and indigestion. You can use antacids for children to treat occasional regurgitation of stomach contents or chronic reflux conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). They can be purchased over the counter in the form of syrups or chewable tablets (1) (2). However, doctor consultation before purchase is necessary as some antacids aren’t recommended for children under 12 years of age unless directed otherwise by the doctor (3).

Read on about different antacids you can use for children, their safety, and their side effects.

Can Children Take Antacids?

Yes, school age children and adolescents may be given certain antacids for short-term relief from symptoms. Since antacid medicines are available without a prescription, it is important to carefully go through the pack’s insert for instructions regarding recommended age and dosage. It is advisable to consult a general physician or a healthcare provider before giving antacids to children. These are not recommended for infants and young children. Also they are not recommended for long term treatment in children of any age.

What Are The Different Types Of Antacids?

Different types of antacids may contain one or more of the following ingredients (1) (4).

  • Aluminum hydroxide
  • Magnesium carbonate
  • Magnesium trisilicate
  • Magnesium hydroxide
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Bismuth subsalicylate

These chemicals neutralize stomach acid and/or reduce the amount of pepsin (a protein-digesting enzyme that may cause damage if the refluxed stomach contents reach beyond the food pipe). They may also relieve abdominal pain and stomach cramps and prevent the refluxed acid from corroding any tissue 5.

Extra ingredients that may be found in certain antacid preparations are (6):

  • Simethicone: Breaks down gas bubbles and reduces flatulence.
  • Alginic acid: It is prepared from kelp (seaweed) and acts as a physical barrier to prevent the acid from coming in contact with the inner lining of the food pipe.

What Is The Dosage Of Antacids For Children?

The age-appropriate dosage is often mentioned in the patient information leaflet or package insert available with the medication. However, you should discuss with your healthcare provider to know the appropriate dose based on the age and bodyweight of your child. Antacids are usually taken after meals or at bedtime, or as directed by your child’s doctor.

The table below may help you understand the dosage instructions for some of the available antacids (7) (8) (9).

Ingredients (mg)Brand namesAge (years)Dosage
Calcium carbonate (400mg)Pepto kids (chewable tablet)3-5Not more than 3 tablets in 24 hours
6-11Not more than 6 tablets in 24 hours
Aluminum hydroxide (200mg)

Magnesium hydroxide  (200mg)

Simethicone (20mg)

Maalox (liquid)

Ingredients mentioned per 5ml or 1tsp

12 or above2-4tsp (10-20ml) up to 4 times a day
Bismuth subsalicylate (525mg)Pepto-Bismol (liquid)
Ingredients mentioned per 30ml or 2tbsp
12 or above1 dose (30ml or 2tbsp) every 30 minutes to 1 hour as needed, not exceeding 240ml in 24 hours

What Are The Side Effects Of Antacids In Children?

Antacids usually do not cause harm if taken in correct doses. It may cause certain side effects in children, such as (4):

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

You should stop giving the medication to your child and consult a physician if any of the above symptoms become severe.

What Precautions To Take When Using Antacids For Children?

You must observe the following precautions when giving antacids to your child (9) (10).

  • Chewable tablets should not be swallowed whole rather must be dissolved in the mouth slowly.
  • Use measuring cups or devices provided with the product wherever applicable. Shake the container of liquid antacids well before administration to ensure uniform consistency of the liquid suspension.
  • Antacids are short-term solutions and provide symptomatic relief. Do not use them for more than two weeks if symptoms persist. It is advisable to consult a general physician before giving antacids to children below 12 years of age.
  • Make sure you check for the medicine’s composition or formulation to avoid any ingredients that are potential allergens to your child.
  • Some antacids may not be safe for children with liver, kidney, or heart disorders. Products containing salicylates, such as Bismuth subsalicylate, may cause Reye’s syndrome (a rare disorder causing liver and brain damage). A doctor’s consent is necessary in such cases.
  • Consult a doctor before giving antacids to your child if they are ill or have just recovered from any illness.
  • Antacids may alter the absorption and function of some other drugs. Discuss your child’s medications with a doctor before starting antacids.
  • Some antacids may contain sodium. Ask your doctor if your child is on a low-sodium or sodium-free diet. The same applies to children on a magnesium-free diet.
  • Keep medications out of children’s reach to prevent accidental overdosing.

Acid reflux in children may be managed with some dietary changes and short-term, non-prescription antacids. Antacids provide symptomatic relief and do not cure the underlying cause of reflux and GERD. If the child continues to experience acid reflux and indigestion for more than two weeks, avoid overusing antacids and consult a doctor.

Key Pointers

  • Antacids should not be given to children without a doctor’s prescription.
  • They differ in their formulation and dosage for children of different ages.
  • Although harmless, it may induce certain side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and headache, which require medical intervention.
  • It is important to follow precautionary measures to prevent complications such as allergies, liver damage, and overdosing.


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Dr. Garima Garg Seth

Dr. Garima Garg Seth is a well-known pediatrician in Gurgaon, having more than 19 years of experience in this field. She has completed her education from topmost organizations in India, including AIIMS, New Delhi; Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi; and CMC Vellore. She headed the pediatric ICU of Max Hospital Gurgaon for six years.  Dr. Seth is a strong... more

Dr. Joyani Das

Dr. Joyani Das is a PhD in Pharmacology with over two years of experience in academics. Previously, she worked as an associate professor, faculty of Pharmacology. With her research background in preclinical studies and a zeal for scientific writing, she joined MomJunction as a health writer. Her research work was published in international journals and publications, such as Elsevier, Current... more