Pepto-Bismol is an over-the-counter liquid formulation that began being sold in 1900. Its formula hasn’t changed too much to this day and is widely used to help treat a wide range of common, self-help stomach related conditions.
Pepto-bismol is best described as treating the symptoms of an upset stomach, which can be due to a variety of causes. It is commonly recommended for symptoms including diarrhoea, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, gas, belching and fullness. It is suitable for most people over the age of 16. Because it covers a wide range of conditions, this means it is great for someone experiencing a few of these symptoms, especially if due to over-indulgence of food and drink.
Pepto-bismol works through a key ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate. Bismuth has antacid properties and can also work 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 movement of the bowel. In addition, bismuth binds to toxins produced by E. coli which is a bacteria that can cause infection leading to unwanted bothersome symptoms.
Pepto-bismol is not suitable for anyone under the age of 16 due to the risk of a condition known as Reyes syndrome. Reyes is rare, but leads to swelling of the liver and brain in children so any potential causative medications tend to be avoided. Anyone with a kidney condition, suffering from gout, 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 avoid it. If your symptoms are severe or persist for more than a few days, you should talk to your pharmacist or doctor to get advice on what is best to do next.
The main side effect people experience is nausea and vomiting. But people have also reported changes in the colour of their stools and tongue. If large amounts are taken, there is a risk of an overdose. Common symptoms of an overdose include gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhoea and vomiting, skin reactions, sore mouth and discolouration 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 999 for the emergency services.