Babies and Ranitidine (Zantac®)
If you are treating your newborn baby with ranitidine (Zantac®) for
heartburn, you are not alone. In fact, gastroesophageal reflux
(GER), also called heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion, is
extremely common in infants and children. As many as 70% of infants
vomit at least once every day in their first four months of life due
GER occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, the food
pipe that connects the throat to the stomach. Because the esophagus
is sensitive and not as thick as the stomach, acid in the esophagus
causes pain. Infants with GER may have vomiting, irritability
because of the pain, trouble feeding and a cough that does not go
GER often goes away on its own by the time a child is six months
old. Until then, doctors often prescribe ranitidine to help relieve
the pain and discomfort caused by GER. Ranitidine works by reducing
the acid in the stomach. It is given to infants and children in
syrup form, though it is also available as tablets.
The prescribed dosing for ranitidine syrup can be confusing. Many
parents make mistakes in dosing their children. For instance, a
common mistake is to give 7 milliliters instead of the
prescribed 0.7 milliliters. This is ten times the dose
ordered by the doctor.
When parents realize the mistake, they call the poison center in a
panic. Poison center experts tell them that ranitidine is safe and
well-tolerated. In an overdose, it may cause mild drowsiness. Some
children may also have short-term nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Severe or life-threatening symptoms are very rare.
Prevent mistakes with ranitidine (and other medicines):
Have a routine for who gives a child medicine and when.
Use a checklist, schedule, or calendar to note when a child is given
Read the label carefully for the right dose – every time you give
Use measuring syringes for medicines. Get them from your doctor or
pharmacy. DO NOT use household spoons and cups to measure medicine
If a child gets too much ranitidine, call the poison center right
away at 1-800-222-1222. Bring
the package to the phone. The nurse or pharmacist who answers your
call will want to know the strength of the medicine and the
The poison center will tell you what symptoms to watch for. Usually,
no treatment is needed. But, if you need to do anything, the poison
center expert will tell you. And, the poison center will stay in
touch with you by phone.