What to Know When Taking Pepcid

This over-the-counter medication may help with your heartburn.

Pepcid is used to treat acid reflux.
Pepcid is used to treat acid reflux.. Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

You may know Pepcid, which is generically known as Famotidine, from its spot in your pharmacy's heartburn relief aisle. Its other monikers: Pepcid-AC, Maximum Strength Pepcid-AC, and Pepcid Complete are also available over-the-counter.

Over-the-counter Pepcid is prescribed by doctors for the treatment and prevention of acid indigestion-related heartburn and sour stomach. Many doctors only prescribe prescription-strength H2 Blockers for the treatment of peptic ulcers and esophagitis symptoms, and have their patients use over-the-counter forms for relief of symptoms of GERD, acid indigestion, and sour stomach.

How Pepcid Relieves Heartburn

Pepcid is in a class of medications called H2 Blockers. It decreases the amount of acid made in the stomach by blocking histamine-2 (hence the H2), which is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that stimulates the production of acid by stomach cells.

Because of this mechanism, H2 blockers are not associated with the same risks as another heartburn medication class called PPIs or proton pump inhibitors.

Prior to and While Taking Pepcid, Talk to Your Doctor

Before taking any new medications there are numerous things that you should discuss with your doctor and pharmacist, such as:

  • What prescription and nonprescription medications or vitamins you are taking.
  • If you are allergic to Pepcid or any other drugs.
  • If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking Pepcid, call your doctor.
  • If you have phenylketonuria (PKU, a disease present at birth in which mental retardation develops if a specific diet isn't followed) or kidney disease.
  • If you have or ever had trouble swallowing.

While you are taking Pepcid, you may forget a dose. When that occurs, contact your physician before taking a missed dose since he or she will be able to determine if it is safe to do so, or if you should wait until your next scheduled dose. This isn't the time to fly by yourself: Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one without a medical consult first.

Possible side effects of Pepcid

The other time that you don't want to DIY your treatment is when you might be experiencing side effects — something that most drugs may have. Pepcid is no exception. For most people experiencing side effects, they usually disappear after a few doses. If, however, any of the following symptoms are severe or do not go away, call your doctor:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Some side effects can be serious. The following symptoms are uncommon, but if you experience any of them, call your doctor immediately:

  • Hives
  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

Where to Keep Your Pepcid

As with all medications, keep it in its original container, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (Hint: not in the bathroom). Do not allow liquid to freeze. Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed, and throw away unused Pepcid liquid after 30 days.

Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.


"Understanding Some of the Medications Often Prescribed for GERD & Ulcers." Common GI Problems: Volume 1. American College of Gastroenterology. 24 Apr 2007.

Kenneth R. DeVault M.D., F.A.C.G., and Donald O. Castell M.D., M.A.C.G., "Updated Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease." doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.41217.x. American College of Gastroenterology. 24 Apr 2007.

"Effectiveness of Therapies for GERD" American College of Gastroenterology. 24 Apr 2007.

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