Pepto-Bismol for Kids: Is It Safe?


Pepto-bismol is popular medication used with an active ingredient called as Bismuth subsalicylate. It is also known as Pink Bismuth. It is a well known over the counter medication used to treat digestive problems.

 It is used to treat-

  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Travelers’ diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Bleching
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Other discomforts of stomach and gastrointestinal tract

Bismuth subsalicylate sold under the brand name Pepto-bismol. It belongs to the drug class called salicylates. It is used as-

  • Anti-diarrhea
  • Antacid
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-secretory

Pepto-bismol treat diarrhea by-

  • Slowing the growth of bacteria
  • Increasing the amount of fluid your intestines absorb
  • Reducing inflammation and overactivity of your intestines
  • Preventing your body’s release of a chemical called prostaglandin that causes inflammation
  • Decreasing the flow of fluids and electrolytes into the bowel
  • Blocking toxins produced by bacteria such as E.coli
  • Killing other bacteria or organisms that cause diarrhea

Adults and children 12 years and older can take it up to two days and help to treat all digestive problems. Follow the directions on the package carefully. It is taken by mouth and available in following forms-

  • Caplets
  • Chewable tablets
  • Liquid suspension

Can I give Pepto-Bismol to My Kids?

is pepto bismol safe for kids


Side effects from pepto-bismol are mild and go away shortly after you stop taking the medication. They are black stool and black, hairy tongue when it combines with trace amounts of sulfur in their saliva and gastrointestinal tract.These are harmless and are temporary which go away within several days after you stop taking pepto-bismol.

Whenever anyone in the family had an upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea, adults will remember a time when Pepto-bismol was the firt thing to be taken. But pepto-bismol should only be used by adolescents and adults age 12 and over. The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children less than 2 years of age due to accumulation of bismuth, magnesium or aluminum.

Kids who have or are recovering from chicken pox or other flu-like symptoms should not use this medication bismuth subsalicylate which is chemically related to aspirin causing Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious condition that causes confusion, swelling in the brain and liver damage. If you notice confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness, nausea, hyperventilation and vomiting in your child after treating with bismuth subsalicylate, contact your doctor immediately and require emergency treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment of Reye’s syndrome can save a child’s life. For the same reason, it is typically recommended that nursing mothers not use medication containing bismuth subsalicylate because small amounts of the medication are excreted in human breast milk, and these pose a theoretical risk of Reye’s syndrome to nursing children.

Reye’s syndrome is a rapidly progressing brain disorder though common, but in those affected, it is associated with a more than 20% chance of death. Children involved in the use of aspirin to treat common illness as influenza and chicken pox.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings against the use of aspirin to treat fever-causing illnesses in anyone under 19. In addition, recent studies have not found these medications containing aspirin including products like Pepto-bismol and Kaopectate to be effective inchildren under 12. By contrast, oil of wintergreen should also be avoided in children as its central component methyl salicylate is not meant for ingestion.

Products containing bismuth subsalicylate must carry the following warning on the label: “Children and teenagers should not use this medicine for chicken pox or flu symptoms before a doctor is consulted about Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious illness reported to be associated with aspirin.”


As it is not at all safe for kids therefore Christened Child Pepto Antacid, the formulation is offered as a chewable tablet in a bubblegum flavor and is approved for use in children over two. Those under two should not be given any medication containing bismuth, magnesium, or aluminum as these substances can rapidly accumulate and cause a potentially serious toxic response.

Pepto-bismol can not be used in kids but what if your child has indigestion, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These are some alternatives to pepto-bismol that may help-

  • For symptoms of indigestion, focus on dietary changes to relieve the stomach of any irritation. Serve bland foods such as saltine crackers, dry toast, gelatin and applesauce. Provide clear fluids should be provided to sip, avoiding sugary beverages or acidic juices. Cut out any greasy foods, chocolate or heavy spices until the symptoms are fully resolved. Offer smaller meals more frequently rather three regular meals per day can work too.
  • With nausea and vomiting, the main focus should be on keeping the child hydrated as there is lost. Ensure that your child regularly sips water or an electrolyte replacement drinkuntil the stomach settles and avoiding fruit juices and sodas.
  • With nausea and vomiting, the main focus should be on keeping the child hydrated. Ensure that your child regularly sips water or an electrolyte replacement drinkuntil the stomach settles, avoiding fruit juices and sodas.
  • Ensure that your child is well hydrated everytime and avoid home remedies like warm milk or rice water which are not meant to be appropriate replacement fluids.
  • There are also a number of natural home remedies that many people use for thier child such as Brewed teas made with ginger, peppermint, chamomile, fennel or licorice may help in relieving symptoms of an upset stomach.
  • Instead of an over-the-counter antacid, mix a teaspoon of baking soda into a mug of warm water. Even a little warm water with lemon juice has been known to do the trick will be effective too.

Conclusion-Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) is an over-the-counter drug used to prevent traveler’s diarrhea and to treat diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, indigestion, heartburn and H. pylori infection particularly in adults. It is not safe and effective for kids as it leads to Reye’s syndrome which can be fatal. Therefore, this medication should be avoided strictly.

Hope this article was of help for all our parents!! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy and Healthy Babies!!