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Pepto Bismol liquid

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Pepto Bismol is an over-the-counter liquid formulation that has been sold since 1900. Its formula hasn’t changed much to this day, and it is used to treat a wide range of common stomach-related conditions.

Doctor’s advice

Who is it for?

Pepto Bismol is best described as a treatment for the symptoms of an upset stomach, which can be due to a variety of causes. It is commonly recommended for diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, gas, belching, and fullness. It is suitable for most people over the age of 12 years. Because it covers a wide range of conditions, it is great for someone experiencing several of these symptoms, especially if due to over-indulgence in food and drink.

How does it work?

Pepto Bismol contains a key ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate. Bismuth has antacid properties and works as an antidiarrheal by stimulating fluid and electrolytes to enter across the gut. Also, when bismuth reacts with the water in the gut, it works as a painkiller, reducing inflammation and excessive bowel movements. In addition, bismuth binds to toxins produced by E. coli, a bacteria that can cause infection leading to unwanted, bothersome symptoms.

Should anyone avoid taking it?

Pepto Bismol is not suitable for anyone under 12 years due to the risk of a condition known as Reyes syndrome. Reyes is rare but leads to liver and brain swelling in children, so it should be avoided.

Anyone with a kidney condition, ulcer, bleeding problem, suffering from gout, or currently pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking Pepto Bismol. As always, if you are allergic to any of the ingredients in Pepto Bismol, then you should not take it.

If your symptoms are severe or persist for more than a few days, you should talk to your pharmacist or doctor for advice on what is best to do next.

Are there any side effects?

The main side effect people experience is nausea and vomiting. But people have also reported changes in the color of their stools and tongue. If too much is taken, there is a risk of an overdose. Common symptoms of an overdose include gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea and vomiting, skin reactions, sore mouth, and discoloration of the gums.

Occasionally, some people experience a severe allergic reaction to the medication.  If you experience any mouth swelling, airway swelling, or shortness of breath, you should treat this as an emergency and dial 911 for emergency services.

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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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