Alka Seltzer vs Tums

Listen to the article instead of reading through it.


For individuals dealing with digestive discomfort, including heartburn or acid indigestion, there are certain over-the-counter medications that work to neutralize stomach acid and provide relief. Alka Seltzer and Tums are two such medications often used for these conditions. Both of them function by altering the pH levels in your stomach but they do so through different active ingredients and mechanisms.

Alka Seltzer is a combination of aspirin, citric acid, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The sodium bicarbonate reacts with the citric acid in water to create a fizzing action that helps it dissolve faster while also functioning as an antacid. On the other hand, Tums primarily contains calcium carbonate which directly works as an antacid helping to neutralize stomach acidity on ingestion. While both can provide quick relief from symptoms like heartburn or indigestion, Alka-Seltzer's inclusion of aspirin may give it additional pain-relieving properties compared to Tums.

What is Alka Seltzer?

Alka-Seltzer, a product first introduced by the Dr. Miles Medical Company in 1931, is an effervescent antacid and pain reliever used for relief of minor aches, inflammation, fever, headache, heartburn, stomachache and indigestion. It works differently from other antacids because it contains aspirin for pain relief and sodium bicarbonate which reacts with an acid to create effervescence when dissolved in water.

On the other hand is Tums (Calcium Carbonate), also an antacid that has been providing relief for heartburn symptoms since 1928. Tums neutralize some of the stomach acids reducing their corrosiveness. While both Alka-Seltzer and Tums work on acidity control, they differ mainly in formulation: while Alka-seltzer includes aspirin as well as bases to combat acidity; Tums primarily consists of calcium carbonate which directly interacts with stomach acid to reduce acid levels.

In terms of side effects; although rare those taking Alka Seltzer could experience more serious ones due its inclusion of Aspirin such as severe nausea or vomiting or allergic reactions like rash whereas users consuming Tum might experience constipation due its high mineral ingredient content.

What conditions is Alka Seltzer approved to treat?

Alka Seltzer is approved for the treatment of various conditions, including:

  • Heartburn
  • Acid indigestion
  • Sour stomach (in combination with an analgesic, Aspirin)
  • Pain accompanied by heartburn and acid indigestion (also in combination with Aspirin) Tums also helps to treat similar conditions as Alka Seltzer but does not include a pain reliever.

How does Alka Seltzer help with these illnesses?

Alka-Seltzer helps to manage indigestion and acid reflux by neutralizing excess stomach acid. It does this through its key ingredients, aspirin and sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is a type of antacid that works by increasing the pH of your stomach acid, reducing its acidity and helping to relieve symptoms such as heartburn, belching and bloating. Aspirin is a pain reliever that assists in managing any discomfort associated with these conditions. On the other hand, Tums primarily contain calcium carbonate which also acts as an antacid to reduce stomach acidity levels but doesn't contain an analgesic component like aspirin found in Alka-Seltzer for added pain relief. Both medications work relatively quickly to alleviate symptoms related to digestive upset; however, they function differently depending on their formulation contents.

What is Tums?

Tums is a brand name for a type of antacid that contains calcium carbonate, which functions by neutralizing excess stomach acid. It was first introduced in 1930 and has since become one of the best-known over-the-counter remedies for heartburn and indigestion. Tums come in chewable tablet form, making them easy to take without water, and they are also often fortified with additional nutrients such as vitamin D3.

Because Tums work directly on stomach acid, they have an immediate effect on symptoms like heartburn or sour stomach. They don't interfere with other neurotransmitters or hormones in the body; their action is localized to your digestive system. This makes Tums less likely than some other medications (such as Alka Seltzer) to cause systemic side effects like drowsiness or constipation.

The primary component of Tums - calcium carbonate - can benefit those who need supplemental calcium due to conditions like osteoporosis. However, it's important not to exceed recommended dosages: too much calcium can lead to kidney stones among other serious conditions.

What conditions is Tums approved to treat?

Tums, an over-the-counter medication, is approved for the treatment of:

  • Occasional heartburn
  • Acid indigestion These conditions are often caused by consuming certain foods or beverages. Tums works as an antacid to neutralize stomach acid and provide relief from these symptoms.

How does Tums help with these illnesses?

Calcium carbonate, the primary active ingredient in Tums, works by directly neutralizing stomach acid on contact. This reaction creates water and other basic substances that can be safely passed through your digestive system or reabsorbed into the body without causing harm. Importantly, unlike Alka Seltzer which contains aspirin and thus has analgesic effects but may also cause potential side-effects like irritation of the stomach lining or exacerbate ulcers, Tums does not contain any additional pharmaceutical ingredients beyond its antacid component. Consequently, it is often recommended as a first-line treatment for heartburn and indigestion due to its efficacy in reducing stomach acidity levels quickly with minimal risk of side effects when used appropriately.

How effective are both Alka Seltzer and Tums?

Both Alka Seltzer and Tums have long histories of use as over-the-counter remedies for acid reflux, heartburn, and indigestion. They were both approved by the FDA several decades ago. Since they utilize different active ingredients (sodium bicarbonate and aspirin in Alka Seltzer versus calcium carbonate in Tums), they may be recommended under varying circumstances.

Alka-Seltzer's combination of sodium bicarbonate and aspirin works to neutralize stomach acid while also providing pain relief. It is usually taken when symptoms occur or at meal times if certain foods are known to cause discomfort. However, due to its aspirin content, Alka-Seltzer may not be suitable for individuals with conditions like peptic ulcers or those on blood thinners.

Tums primarily uses calcium carbonate which quickly neutralizes stomach acid on contact, but does not contain any analgesic properties like Aspirin found in Alka Seltzer. The effectiveness of Tums has been demonstrated through numerous clinical observations over many years since it was first introduced as a remedy for indigestion.

In conclusion: Both products work effectively against heartburn, but choosing between them might depend on individual factors such as whether an individual needs additional pain relief (which would favour Alka-Seltzer) or prefers a product without Aspirin (which would favour Tums).

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Alka Seltzer typically prescribed?

For treating heartburn and acid indigestion, the recommended dosage for Alka Seltzer is 2 tablets every 4 hours as symptoms persist. The tablets should be fully dissolved in water before taking. Do not exceed 8 tablets in 24 hours unless directed by a doctor. For Tums, adults and children over the age of 12 are advised to chew 1-3 tablets as symptoms occur, or as directed by a doctor. Do not take more than seven Tums in a single day (a span of 24-hours) if you are self-treating or no more than fifteen per day under professional medical guidance.

At what dose is Tums typically prescribed?

Tums, an antacid used for treating heartburn and acid indigestion, is usually started at a dosage of 2-4 tablets (500 to 1000mg) as symptoms occur. The dose can then be increased if necessary up to the maximum of 7 doses in a 24-hour period or as directed by a doctor. Each dose should be spaced at least four hours apart from each other. If there's no relief or if the symptoms persist after two weeks of treatment with Tums, medical advice should be sought immediately.

What are the most common side effects for Alka Seltzer?

Some common side effects when consuming Alka-Seltzer compared to Tums may include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain or discomfort (dyspepsia)
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst due to the sodium content, potentially leading to more frequent urination
  • Dizziness, restlessness or irritability (due to alkalosis from prolonged use)

It is important to note that many people using these antacids do not have serious side effects. However, if you experience any severe symptoms such as muscle spasms/uncontrolled movements, mood changes/confusion, seizure, weakness or unusual tiredness; seek immediate medical attention.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Alka Seltzer?

While Alka Seltzer and Tums are both over-the-counter remedies for stomach upset, they can occasionally cause side effects. For Alka Seltzer:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.
  • Indications of metabolic alkalosis: headache, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, fatigue/weakness/muscle twitching/cramps/spasms/seizures
  • Occurrence or worsening symptoms like blood/mucus in your stool

For Tums:

  • Allergic reactions are rare but seek immediate medical help if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction: rash; itching/swelling (particularly on the face/tongue/throat); severe dizziness; difficulty breathing
  • Severe stomach/abdominal pain may occur due to high calcium levels (hypercalcemia)

If you experience these symptoms after taking either medication, it's important to seek prompt medical attention.

What are the most common side effects for Tums?

Tums, while generally well-tolerated, can have some potential side effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pain or discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Increased thirst
  • High levels of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), which could lead to kidney stones or other problems over time if taken in excess.

It's also worth noting that Tums works differently than Alka Seltzer by directly neutralizing stomach acid with its main ingredient, calcium carbonate. As a result, the relief may be slower compared to effervescent tablets like Alka Seltzer but it is gentler on the stomach and safer for frequent use.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Tums?

While Tums is generally considered safe and easy to tolerate, it's important to be aware of potential side effects that may indicate a more serious reaction. Specifically, if you experience any of the following symptoms after taking Tums, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives; difficulty breathing; swelling in your face or throat
  • Unusual mood changes or confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting or persistent stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite along with weight loss
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Irregular heartbeats, palpitations or feeling faint
  • Muscle weakness, cramps or twitches

Always remember to take medications exactly as directed by your healthcare provider and do not hesitate to reach out if you have concerns about potential side effects.

Contraindications for Alka Seltzer and Tums?

Both Alka-Seltzer and Tums, as with most over-the-counter antacid medications, may cause some undesirable side effects in certain individuals. If you notice any severe symptoms such as bloody stools or vomit that resembles coffee grounds after taking these medications, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Alka-Seltzer nor Tums should be taken if you are consuming other drugs like tetracyclines or fluoroquinolones (a type of antibiotics) without consulting your physician first; the presence of calcium or sodium bicarbonate can affect how well these antibiotics are absorbed by your body. Always inform your healthcare provider about all the medications and supplements you're taking to avoid potentially harmful interactions between different drugs.

Also note that prolonged use of high doses of products like Alka-Seltzer and Tums can lead to kidney problems or imbalances in electrolytes (like calcium). It's always best to use them under a doctor's guidance for chronic conditions.

How much do Alka Seltzer and Tums cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of a 36-count box of Alka-Seltzer Original Effervescent Tablets averages around $8, which works out to approximately $0.22 per tablet or $0.44-$0.66/day, depending on your dose (2-3 tablets).
  • The price for a bottle with 96 Tums Ultra Strength 1000 Chewable Antacid Tablets averages about $7, working out to roughly $0.07/tablet or up to about $0.28/day if you are taking the maximum recommended dosage (4 tablets).

Thus, if you take the highest recommended dosage for both medications, Tums ends up being less expensive on a per-day treatment basis than Alka-Seltzer.

However, keep in mind that cost should not be your primary consideration when choosing between these over-the-counter antacids; effectiveness and suitability for treating your specific symptoms should play larger roles in this decision.

For generic versions of these drugs - effervescent acid reducers and calcium carbonate chewables - costs can vary:

  • Generic effervescent tablets similar to Alka-Seltzer typically come in packs ranging from 24 to 72 tablets with approximate costs starting as low as about $5 for a pack of 24 ($0.20/tablet) and going up based on package size.
  • Generic calcium carbonate chewable antacids comparable to Tums may start at prices as low as approximately $6 for bottles containing upwards of 150 chewables depending on brand equivalent (~$0.04/tablet).

Popularity of Alka Seltzer and Tums

Alka-Seltzer, a common over-the-counter remedy for indigestion and heartburn, was used by an estimated 5 million people in the US in 2020. Alka-Seltzer accounted for about 12% of antacid sales in the country. The product combines three active ingredients: aspirin, sodium bicarbonate, and citric acid. Aspirin is a pain reliever, while sodium bicarbonate and citric acid work together to create a fizzy solution that neutralizes stomach acid.

On the other hand, Tums were consumed by approximately 4 million Americans in 2020. In terms of market share within antacids sold over-the-counter (OTC), Tums represent just under 10%. They contain calcium carbonate as their active ingredient which works to neutralize stomach acid on contact. Notably different from Alka Seltzer's formulation - they do not contain any pain-relieving components or cause fizzing action during digestion.


Both Alka-Seltzer and Tums have long-standing records of usage in patients with heartburn, indigestion, and other related conditions. Their effectiveness is supported by numerous clinical studies indicating that they are more effective than placebo treatments. They work differently: Alka-Seltzer contains a combination of aspirin, citric acid, and sodium bicarbonate which neutralizes stomach acid and provides pain relief; on the other hand, Tums primarily uses calcium carbonate to reduce excess stomach acid.

Alka-Seltzer could be considered if there's also accompanying minor body aches or pains due to its component of Aspirin while Tums would typically be used for basic treatment of heartburn or mild indigestion.

Both medications are available over-the-counter (OTC), making them easily accessible at a relatively low cost. Both may provide immediate relief but this can vary depending on individual response.

The side effect profile is generally similar between the two medications as both are usually well-tolerated but Alka-Seltzer might cause more gastrointestinal symptoms than Tums because it contains aspirin. For both remedies, consumers should follow recommended dosages carefully; those with certain medical conditions such as kidney disease should consult their healthcare provider before use.