Is Pepto-Bismol Safe for Kids?

Why Pepto-Bismol Is Not the Best Option for Young Kids with Digestive Complaints

pink medicine on a spoon
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Whether or not you can give your child Pepto-Bismol depends on how old your child is and which type of Pepto-Bismol you are thinking of giving them. Pepto-Bismol can relieve many common digestive symptoms including upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhea, heartburn, and nausea.

Salicylate Medications and Reye Syndrome

While Pepto-Bismol can do wonders for your digestive pain, it should not be given to children under the age of 12.

Bismuth subsalicylate, the main ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, has been linked to Reye Syndrome—a rare, but potentially life-threatening disorder, that can occur in kids with viral illnesses, especially the flu and chicken pox and who take aspirin and other salicylate-containing medications.

Because of this link, the FDA requires Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate, which also contains bismuth subsalicylate, to include labeling instructions advising parents against medicating children under the age of 12. Some doctors go even further though and recommend that teens refrain from taking aspirin or salicylate-containing medicines as well.

Children should not take any form of adult Pepto-Bismol, that includes caplets and chewable tablets that also contain bismuth subsalicylate.

Children's Pepto Antacid

If your child complains of digestive issues, there are other medications you can give them. Pepto-Bismol makes a version of its medication for kids, Children's Pepto Antacid, which, like regular Pepto-Bismol, claims to help relieve "heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion, and upset stomach due to these symptoms or overindulgence in food or drink." The children's formula does not contain bismuth subsalicylate and only contains calcium carbonate as its active ingredient.

Since the kids' formula does not contain bismuth subsalicylate like the other forms of Pepto-Bismol, it is not associated with Reye Syndrome and is OK for younger children. In fact, Children's Pepto Chewable Tablets can be given to children as young as age two years old. The tablets come in chewable form and are flavored like bubble gum, making it easier for kids to want to take the medication.

Plus, since calcium carbonate is basically calcium, the tablets can make a nice calcium supplement for children who don't drink enough milk or calcium-fortified orange juice. That said, Children's Pepto Antacid should not be used in place of a calcium supplement. If you think your child isn't getting enough calcium, talk to their pediatrician about vitamins or calcium supplements they can take.

Relief for Upset Stomaches

Beyond Pepto-Bismol, there are other options that can help your soothe your child's upset stomach. Which medication you pick depends on the cause of your child's pain. 

For example, you might consider:

You should always call your pediatrician if your child has severe or lingering stomach pain, especially if it is associated with a fever or continued vomiting. If your child's digestive issues persist, speak to their doctor about ways to help manage their symptoms or any underlying problems that might be causing their pain.

Source:

Behrman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed. North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Guidelines on Pediatric GERD. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nur, Vol 32, Suppl. 2, 2001.

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