Does Pepto-Bismol help with diarrhea? (2024)

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on March 14, 2024.

Does Pepto-Bismol help with diarrhea? (1)

Official answer


Pepto-Bismol is an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine that can be used to treat diarrhea and traveler's diarrhea in adults and children 12 years and older. For diarrhea, it’s available as an oral liquid, liquicap, or caplet. It typically takes 30 to 60 minutes to start working, but you may need several doses.

Pepto-Bismol, often called “the pink stuff” or just “Pepto”, is used for the short-term treatment of adults and children 12 years and older with symptoms of:

  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Gas, burping
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Traveler’s diarrhea

Pepto-Bismol is not used for more than 48 hours. If you need to keep treating your symptoms after 2 days, contact your healthcare provider.

If you are treating a child, be sure to check the Drug Facts label on the Pepto-Bismol product you select to be sure it can be used for their age and weight group. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Children, adolescents and teenagers who have had, or are recovering from chicken pox, flu-like symptoms or other viruses should not use Pepto-Bismol due to the possible risk of Reye’s syndrome. This may occur due to the subsalicylate ingredient, which is similar to aspirin.

Side effects

Side effects are typically mild and temporary and may include a darkened or black stool, constipation and a blackened tongue. Rarely, serious side effects like a bowel blockage or Reye’s Syndrome can occur.

Have your healthcare provider or pharmacist check for drug interactions with any medicine you take, including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal or dietary supplements. Drugs interactions can occur between Pepto-Bismol and some common medicines.

Learn more: Why does it cause black tongue?

Call your doctor right away or 911 if you have ringing in the ears (tinnitus), diarrhea that lasts for 48 hours or longer, severe vomiting, fever, or an allergic reaction (like a severe rash, shortness of breath or swelling in your face, eyes, tongue or throat). Call 911 immediately if you have taken an overdose.

What is the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol?

The active ingredient in Pepto Bismol is bismuth subsalicylate, a compound similar to aspirin with similar warnings. Do not use Pepto-Bismol if you have an allergy to aspirin or other salicylates.

Children, adolescents and teenagers who have (or are recovering from) chicken pox or flu-like symptoms should not use Pepto-Bismol due to the possible risk of Reye’s syndrome.

  • Reye’s Syndrome is a serious illness that may rarely occur in children who have used salicylates like bismuth subsalicylate found in Pepto-Bismol.
  • Changes in behavior, extreme tiredness or fatigue, confusion, nausea, vomiting or seizures may be signs of Reye’s syndrome.
  • Reye’s syndrome can lead to permanent brain damage in children and requires immediate treatment. Contact your doctor right away or call 911 if your child has taken Pepto-Bismol and you notice these symptoms.

Always follow the directions on the Drug Facts Label found on the package.

How does Pepto-Bismol help with diarrhea?

Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth subsalicylate, a chemical compound that has antidiarrheal effects. Bismuth is a metal and subsalicylate is a salicylate that is the same group of medicines as aspirin.

This compound helps to coat your stomach and kill bacteria that may contribute to diarrhea symptoms.

Related Questions

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Which Pepto-Bismol products are for diarrhea?

A specific product called Pepto Diarrhea is available for diarrhea symptoms, but you can use regular Pepto-Bismol liquid too. Some forms of Pepto Diarrhea are more concentrated than the original, so always follow the package directions.

Be sure to drink plenty of clear fluids to help prevent dehydration due to diarrhea. Use the product at the appropriate dose until your diarrhea improves, but if your diarrhea does not improve after 2 days, contact a healthcare provider.

Specific products marketed for diarrhea include:

  • Pepto Diarrhea Cherry Liquid. Adults and children 12 years of age or older: Shake bottle first, then use the dosing cup to take 10 mL every 30 to 60 minutes or 20 mL every 60 minutes. Do not take more than 80 mL in 24 hours.
  • Pepto Diarrhea LiquiCaps. Adults and children 12 years of age or older: Swallow 2 LiquiCaps every 30 minutes or 4 LiquiCaps every hour as needed for diarrhea symptoms. Do not take more than 16 LiquiCaps in 24 hours. Swallow with water, do not chew
  • Pepto Diarrhea Caplets. Adults and children 12 years of age or older: Swallow 1 caplet every 30 minutes or 2 caplets every hour as needed. Do not take more than 8 caplets in 24 hours. Swallow caplets whole with water.

Other forms recommended for Traveler's Diarrhea include Pepto Bismol Liquicaps and Pepto Bismol Ultra Liquid.

Can I use Pepto-Bismol to treat diarrhea in my child?

Pepto-Bismol can be used to treat diarrhea in children 12 years of age and older. There is not a diarrhea-specific Pepto-Bismol product for children under 12 years of age.

For kids ages 2 to under 12 years of age, a product called Pepto Kids is available for acid indigestion, heartburn, sour stomach, and upset stomach. It is a specially formulated chewable tablet that contains calcium carbonate (an antacid) but is NOT used to treat diarrhea. This product does not does not contain bismuth subsalicylate.

Contact your doctor if your child under 12 years of age has diarrhea do not use Pepto-Bismol.

Be sure to read the directions and warnings in the Drug Facts label, as dosage instructions can vary by your child’s age and weight.

Bottom Line

Pepto-Bismol is a popular over-the-counter (OTC) medication that contains bismuth subsalicyalte. It is used in adults and children 12 years and older to treat stomach problems like diarrhea, upset stomach and heartburn. It contains bismuth subsalicyate and should not be used in children under 12 years of age; call your doctor for advice.

If preferred, specific Pepto-Bismol products are available to treat diarrhea in people 12 years and older. They include liquid, liquid caps and caplet formulations and some products may be more concentrated. They can also be used to treat Traveler’s diarrhea.

For children aged 2 to under 12 years of age, a product called Pepto Kids, which contains calcium carbonate (an antacid), can be used to treat symptoms like heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion, and upset stomach. It comes as a bubble gum-flavored chewable tablet. It is NOT used to treat diarrhea.

If your child has diarrhea, contact your healthcare provider. Children are at greater risk for dehydration and may need special care.

This is not all the information you need to know about Pepto-Bismol and does not take the place of your doctor’s directions. Discuss any medical questions you have with your doctor or other health care provider.

  • Budisak P, Abbas M. Bismuth Subsalicylate. [Updated 2023 Jun 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from:
  • Pepto-Bismol. Proctor and Gamble. 2024. Accessed March 14, 2024 at
  • Pepto-Bismol. FAQS.Proctor and Gamble. 2024. Accessed March 14, 2024 at

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Drug information

  • Pepto-Bismol Information for Consumers
  • Side Effects of Pepto-Bismol(detailed)

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Medical Disclaimer

Does Pepto-Bismol help with diarrhea? (2024)
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