Worst Pills, Best Pills

An expert, independent second opinion on more than 1,800 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements

Drug Profile

The information on this site is intended to supplement and enhance, not replace, the advice of a physician who is familiar with your medical history. Decisions about your health should always be made ONLY after detailed conversation with your doctor.

Generic drug name: bismuth subsalicylate (BIS muth sub sa LIS a late)
Brand name(s): MAALOX TOTAL STOMACH RELIEF, PEPTO BISMOL
GENERIC: not available FAMILY: Other Gastrointestinal Drugs
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Pregnancy and Breast-feeding Warnings [top]

Breast-feeding Warning:

Salicylates are excreted in human milk. Because of the potential for serious adverse effects in nursing infants, you should not take these drugs while nursing.

Facts About This Drug [top]

Bismuth subsalicylate is an over-the-counter drug used to treat upset stomach and diarrhea. In addition, doctors sometimes prescribe bismuth subsalicylate, in combination with antibiotics, to treat ulcers (see Ulcers and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and Combination Treatments for Helicobacter Pylori Infection).

Bismuth subsalicylate is an over-the-counter drug used to treat upset stomach and diarrhea. In addition, doctors sometimes prescribe bismuth subsalicylate, in combination with antibiotics, to treat ulcers (see Ulcers and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and Combination Treatments for Helicobacter Pylori Infection).

Before You Use This Drug [top]

Tell your doctor if you have or have had :

  • allergies to drugs
  • bleeding or bleeding disorder
  • dehydration
  • diabetes (drug can affect glucose urine test results)
  • dysentery
  • gout
  • kidney disorder
  • pregnancy or are breast-feeding
  • ulcers

Tell your doctor about any other drugs you take, including aspirin, herbs, vitamins, and other nonprescription products.

When You Use This Drug [top]

  • You may experience darkening of tongue or grayish-black stools. These effects do not require medical attention.

How to Use This Drug [top]

  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but skip it if it is almost time for the next dose. Do not take double doses.
  • Do not share your medication with others.
  • Take the drug at the same time(s) each day.
  • Store at room temperature with lid on tightly. Do not store in the bathroom. Do not expose to heat, moisture, or strong light. Keep out of reach of children.
  • Take with a full glass (eight ounces) of water.
  • Do not chew regular tablets.
  • Chewable tablets can be chewed or allowed to disintegrate in mouth before swallowing.

Interactions with Other Drugs [top]

Evaluations of Drug Interactions 2003 lists no drugs, biologics (e.g., vaccines, therapeutic antibodies), or foods as causing “highly clinically significant” or “clinically significant” interactions when used together with the drug in this section. We also found no interactions in the drug’s FDA-approved professional package inserts. However, as the number of new drugs approved for marketing increases and as more experience is gained with these drugs over time, new interactions may be discovered.

Adverse Effects [top]

Call your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • anxiety
  • breathing that is fast or deep
  • confusion
  • constipation that is severe
  • depression
  • diarrhea that is severe or continues
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • drowsiness that is severe
  • ears ringing or buzzing
  • flapping movements of hands
  • headache that is severe or continues
  • hearing loss
  • movements that are uncontrolled
  • muscle spasms, especially of face, neck, and back
  • muscle weakness
  • nausea or vomiting that is severe or continues
  • speaking difficulty or slurred speech
  • stomach pain that is severe or continues
  • sweating increased
  • thirst increased
  • trembling
  • vision problems

Signs of overdose (for bismuth subsalicylate only):

  • anxiety
  • breathing that is fast or deep
  • confusion
  • depression
  • diarrhea that is severe
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • drowsiness that is severe
  • ears ringing
  • headache that is severe
  • hearing loss
  • movements that are uncontrolled
  • muscle spasms
  • muscle weakness
  • nausea or vomiting that is severe
  • speaking difficulty or slurred speech
  • stomach pain
  • sweating increased
  • thirst increased
  • trembling
  • vision problems

If you suspect an overdose, call this number to contact your poison control center: (800) 222-1222.

last reviewed September 30, 2020