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Pepto Bismol®

Medium Risk

Also known as:

Bismarex Bismatrol Bismuth subsalicylate Kaopectate® Kola-Pectin Pink bismuth

Pink liquid medicine that looks like Pepto Bismol
Possible Symptoms
  • A metallic or bitter taste in the mouth
  • Dark-colored or black tongue
  • Dark-colored or black stools
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
What to Do
  1. Wipe or rinse out mouth.
  2. Give a serving size of water to drink.
  3. Call 1-800-222-1222 for additional instructions.


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Additional Information

Quick Facts about Pepto-Bismol

Pepto-Bismol® is a familiar pink-colored over-the-counter liquid medication used  to relieve nausea, indigestion, heartburn, and diarrhea and helps calm intestinal spasms. It is available in a liquid form, as chewable tablets, and as capsules. The active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol is bismuth subsalicylate. After it’s taken, the medication typically takes effect within 30-60 minutes. It helps to soothe digestive discomfort whether there is food present or the stomach is empty. 

What does bismuth in Pepto-Bismol do?

Bismuth subsalicylate breaks down into bismuth, a type of metal, and salicylic acid, the active ingredient found in aspirin. The role of bismuth in Pepto-Bismol is to help with diarrhea by increasing the amount of fluid absorbed from the intestines. This firms up the stool and makes it difficult for diarrhea to develop or continue. It has mild germ-destroying properties, which may help target the bacteria known to cause diarrhea, and prevent the release of toxins produced by the E-coli bacteria. Salicylic acid decreases intestinal inflammation (swelling) by preventing the formation of prostaglandin, a hormone-like chemical associated with inflammation. 

Side Effects

All medications have side effects associated with their use. The decrease of fluid in the intestines, which stops diarrhea, may result in constipation. An odd and sometimes alarming side effect associated with Pepto-Bismol is a dark or black appearance to the tongue and stools. This is due to a chemical reaction between bismuth and the sulfur present in the saliva and the GI tract fluids. The discoloration is temporary and does no harm, and it will go away once the medication is no longer being taken. Additionally, Pepto-Bismol may have a bitter aftertaste.

Pepto-Bismol and Food Poisoning

Callers to the poison center sometimes ask if Pepto-Bismol will help with food poisoning symptoms. 

It might help with the nausea and diarrhea associated with food poisoning, but it does not work to stop vomiting. Read the packaging directions and follow the dosage guidelines closely to prevent an accidental overdose. This includes not taking more liquid or tablets in 24 hours than the directions recommend. Drinking plenty of water while taking this medication is also important to help replace the water lost from frequent diarrhea episodes. If vomiting and diarrhea persist for more than 2-3 days, or if there is blood present in the vomit or stool, seek medical attention immediately. 

Pepto-Bismol is intended for those who are 12 years or older. Do not give this medication to children without consulting with their pediatrician first. As with all medications, read the label carefully before use. There are Pepto-Bismol products available that are 2-3 times the strength of the original formula. This can easily lead to a poisoning if the directions on the individual package are not followed specifically and too much is taken.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

The medication should not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding as it can be transferred to the baby. 

If you find someone has eaten a small amount of Pepto-Bismol, do not panic. Wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth and give them some water to drink. Call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day, for poisoning emergencies and questions.

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