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National GERD Awareness Week. By Our Student Pharmacist, Isatu Kamara.

You may not know it but November 20-26 is National GERD Awareness Week.

This national awareness week began in 1999 and during this time the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) places an emphasis on encouraging people with symptoms of GERD to seek treatment.

GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, and it affects about 20% of the population. If you have never heard of GERD, you may be suffering from it without knowing. Without treatment it is possible for GERD to lead to serious health conditions over time, so it is important to educate yourself on the condition so you can recognize symptoms in yourself and loved ones.

What is the difference between acid reflux and GERD?

Acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD are often used interchangeably, but it is important to understand the differences between them.

Acid reflux is when stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Heartburn is the feeling associated with acid reflux and it presents as a mild burning sensation in the mid-chest. Heartburn often occurs after meals or when lying down.

Nearly everyone will experience acid reflux at some point in life. When acid reflux causes bothersome symptoms or causes damage to the body, it is classified as GERD, or chronic acid reflux. If you experience acid reflux more than twice a week for several weeks and are experiencing symptoms despite taking medication, you may have developed GERD.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

  • Heartburn- burning sensation in the chest
  • Regurgitation- acid and undigested food backflow into the throat or mouth
  • Feeling of food stuck in the throat
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Raspy voice
  • Sore throat
  • Unexplained cough
  • Nausea or vomiting

How do I know I’m experiencing heartburn and not having a heart attack?

Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning feeling or pain in the chest that can move up to the neck and throat area. A heart attack can cause pain in the arms, neck, and jaw.

Symptoms of a heart attack also include:

  • shortness of breath
  • sweating, nausea
  • dizziness
  • extreme fatigue
  • anxiety

If you are experiencing chest pain that is accompanied by any of these symptoms, call for medical attention immediately.

 prilosecHow is GERD treated?

The most common over-the-counter (OTC) medications used to relieve symptoms of GERD are:

Antacids: provide quick relief of symptoms by neutralizing stomach acid. Examples: Maalox, Tums, Mylanta

H-2 receptor blockers: prevent symptoms by decreasing acid production. Examples: Pepcid, Tagamet (Zantac was removed from the market in 2020 due to cancer risk. If you still have this medication at home please stop taking it and throw any left-over medication away.)

Proton pump inhibitors: stronger class of medication that prevents symptoms by reducing stomach acid production. Examples: Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid

If you are having any of the symptoms of GERD and they are interfering with your daily life, reach out to your provider to discuss treatment options. If your symptoms are not controlled with OTC medications your doctor may prescribe you a medication or recommend surgery.


  1. GERD Awareness Week – November 23-29. National Today. https://nationaltoday.com/gerd-awareness-week/. Published March 26, 2021. Accessed November 7, 2022.
  1. Heartburn, Acid Reflux, or GERD: What’s the Difference? Pfizer. https://www.pfizer.com/news/articles/heartburn_acid_reflux_or_gerd_what_s_the_difference. Accessed November 7, 2022.
  1. Patient education: Acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease in adults (The Basics). UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acid-reflux-and-gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-in-adults-the-basics. Published January 21, 2021. Accessed November 7, 2022.

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