Omeprazole reduces the amount of acid your stomach makes. It’s a widely used treatment for indigestion and heartburn and acid reflux. It’s also taken to prevent and treat stomach ulcers. Sometimes omeprazole is taken for a rare illness caused by a tumour in the pancreas or gut called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
Omeprazole comes as capsules, tablets and as a liquid that you swallow (this is made to order). All types of omeprazole are available on prescription. You can buy the lowest strength 10mg tablets and capsules from pharmacies.
It’s usual to take omeprazole once a day in the morning. For severe illness, you can take it twice a day – in the morning and in the evening. Common side effects include headaches, diarrhea and stomach pain. These tend to be mild and go away when you stop taking the medicine.
If you’re self-treating with omeprazole, do not take it for longer than 2 weeks without checking with a doctor.
Who can and can’t take omeprazole
- Omeprazole can be taken by adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Omeprazole can be taken by children and babies if it’s been prescribed by a doctor.
To make sure omeprazole is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to omeprazole or any other medicines in the past
- have liver problems
- are due to have an endoscopy
Ask your doctor if you should stop taking omeprazole a few weeks before your endoscopy. This is because esomeprazole may hide some of the problems that would usually be spotted during an endoscopy.
Omeprazole is used to treat certain stomach and esophagus problems (such as acid reflux, ulcers). It works by decreasing the amount of acid your stomach makes. It relieves symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and persistent cough. This medication helps heal acid damage to the stomach and esophagus, helps prevent ulcers, and may help prevent cancer of the esophagus. Omeprazole belongs to a class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
If you are self-treating with this medication, over-the-counter omeprazole products are used to treat frequent heartburn (occurring 2 or more days a week). Since it may take 1 to 4 days to have full effect, these products do not relieve heartburn right away.
How to use Omeprazole
Take this medication by mouth as directed by your doctor, usually once daily, before a meal. If you are self-treating, follow all directions on the product package. Dosage and length of treatment are based on your medical condition and response to treatment. In children, the dosage is also based on weight. Do not increase your dose or take this drug more often than directed. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Use this medication regularly to get the most benefit from it. To help you remember, take it at the same time each day. Continue to take this medication for the prescribed length of treatment even if you are feeling better. If you are self-treating with the over-the-counter product, do not take it for more than 14 days unless directed by your doctor.
Tell your doctor if your condition persists or worsens. If you are self-treating, tell your doctor if your heartburn persists after 14 days or if you need to use this medication more than once every 4 months. The risk of side effects goes up over time. Ask your doctor how long you should take this medication. If you think you may have a serious medical problem, get medical help right away.
Liquid omeprazole can be prescribed by a doctor and made to order for children and people who cannot swallow capsules or tablets.
It’ll come with a syringe or spoon to help you take the right amount. If you don’t have a syringe or spoon, ask your pharmacist for one.
Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give the right amount.
What if I forget to take it?
- If you usually take it once a day, take the missed dose as soon as you remember, unless it’s within 12 hours of your next dose, in which case skip the missed dose.
- If you usually take it twice a day, take the missed dose as soon as you remember, unless it’s within 4 hours of your next dose, in which case skip the missed dose.
Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.
If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.
What if I take too much?
It’s very unlikely that taking 1 or 2 extra doses by accident will cause any problems.
But you should check with your doctor if you have taken too much and have any of these symptoms:
- flushed skin
- feeling sweaty
- a fast heartbeat
- feeling sleepy
- blurred vision
- feeling confused or agitated
Headache or abdominal pain may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.
If your doctor has directed you to use this product, remember that he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
Rarely, proton pump inhibitors (such as omeprazole) have caused vitamin B-12 deficiency. The risk is increased if they are taken every day for a long time (3 years or longer). Tell your doctor right away if you develop symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency (such as unusual weakness, sore tongue, or numbness/tingling of the hands/feet).
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing, signs of kidney problems (such as change in the amount of urine).
This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
Before taking omeprazole, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or to similar drugs (such as esomeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole); or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.
Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: liver disease, lupus.
Proton pump inhibitors (such as omeprazole) may increase your risk for bone fractures, especially with longer use, higher doses, and in older adults. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about ways to prevent bone loss/fracture, such as by taking calcium (such as calcium citrate) and vitamin D supplements.
Children may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially fever, cough, and infections of the nose/throat/airways.
Before having surgery, tell your doctor or dentist about all the products you use (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products).
During pregnancy, this medication should be used only when clearly needed. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
This medication passes into breast milk. The effects on a nursing infant are unknown. Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.
Some products that may interact with this drug include: cilostazol, clopidogrel, methotrexate (especially high-dose treatment), rifampin, St John’s wort.
Some products need stomach acid so that the body can absorb them properly. Omeprazole decreases stomach acid, so it may change how well these products work. Some affected products include atazanavir, erlotinib, nelfinavir, pazopanib, rilpivirine, certain azole antifungals (itraconazole, ketoconazole, posaconazole), among others.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Usually, omeprazole is safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
If you’re pregnant, it’s always better to try to treat indigestion without taking a medicine.
Your doctor or midwife will first advise that you try to ease your symptoms by eating smaller meals more often and avoiding fatty and spicy foods.