Calculating Your Heartburn’s Frequency

Understanding how often your heartburn is just as important as identifying its triggers.

Sponsored By: PRILOSEC OTC ®

Calculating Your Heartburn’s Frequency

Every day? Once a week? Only after taking full advantage of an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet? Putting a number to how often heartburn happens will help you decide the kind of treatment that might best ease your symptoms—and whether or not you need to see a doctor.

If you’ve never kept track of your heartburn’s frequency, try using our Reflux Record to create a week-by-week report of when you experienced heartburn, the foods and drinks you consumed prior to the episode and the activities you participated in, including sleeping and exercising. The Reflux Record also allows you to record any medications you were taking prior to the episode, the treatment you chose to ease heartburn and how it worked.

Heartburn experts tend to use three categories to describe heartburn frequency.

  • Episodic or occasional heartburn refers to infrequent flare-ups that are fairly predictable—again, that all-you-can-eat buffet—and can usually be avoided by staying away from certain foods or activities. Your episodic heartburn is typically soothed by traditional over-the-counter (OTC) treatments such as antacids, which neutralize existing stomach acid and provide relatively rapid but short-term relief of heartburn symptoms, lasting one to two hours. H2 antagonists are another treatment recommended for episodic treatment. They’re also known as H2 blockers because they partially block production of acid in the stomach for relief that generally lasts six to 12 hours.

  • Frequent heartburn is characterized by episodes that occur two or more days a week.

    Some heartburn sufferers report that their heartburn cannot be resolved by dietary and lifestyle changes alone. And while their symptoms can be reduced with traditional OTC remedies, a newer OTC medication based on a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) can actually help frequent heartburn sufferers block the burn altogether.

    A PPI works by virtually shutting down the acid pumps in the cells of the stomach, leaving only enough acid for the normal digestion of food. Prilosec OTC®, the leading OTC medication indicated specifically for frequent heartburn, provides 24-hour treatment of frequent heartburn with one pill daily when taken as directed for 14 days. (To learn more—and find out if you qualify for a free sample of Prilosec OTC—click here.)

  • Severe or persistent heartburn describes patterns of painful, long-lasting heartburn episodes that may occur on most days, if not all the time.

    Severe heartburn should be assessed and treated by a medical doctor. Your physician may test for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic condition characterized by irritation or inflammation of the esophagus.

    GERD is caused by the reflux, or backflow, of acids rising from the stomach up into the esophagus. Although chronic, persistent heartburn is the most common GERD symptom, others include regurgitation; pain and difficulty swallowing, especially with solid foods or pills; and a feeling of a lump in the throat. For more information about GERD and its treatment, see What Is GERD?


The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis or recommended treatments. OTC PPIs are only indicated for treatment of frequent heartburn. For severe heartburn or heartburn that persists after trying over-the-counter treatment or lifestyle modifications, visit your doctor to determine the right treatment for you. See the Terms and Conditions for more information.