Zantac (ranitidine) helps fight gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and other conditions where acid backs up from the stomach into the esophagus to make heartburn. The drug works as a histamine H2-receptor antagonist (also called histamine-2 blocker) to reduce acid production in your stomach. It can be prescribed by a physician or is available in over-the-counter (OTC) strengths. Besides short-term and allergic reactions, Zantac can produce some long-term side effects.
Risk of Pneumonia
Over time, using Zantac can increase the possibility of suffering from pneumonia. Pneumonia symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, fever and coughing up colored mucous, according to the Drugs website. Pneumonia is one of the lung infections that long-term use of Zantac can produce. GERD and other reflux conditions can lead to aspiration of food (inhalation), which can lead to such serious lung infections.
Mask Heart Disease
Heartburn may be mistaken for early symptoms of a heart attack, which could worsen over time. Using Zantac to decrease heartburn may also help mask symptoms of heart disease which mimic reflux symptoms, according to the Drugs website. If the ongoing heartburn symptoms of heartburn are accompanied by other early heart disease symptoms like chest pain that spreads to the extremities, dizziness and sweating, as well as the typical nausea from GERD, then heart disease may also be present.
Reduced Effectiveness Due to Smoking, Drinking
Long-term Zantac users may be lulled into thinking occasional use of tobacco products and drinking alcohol can be tolerated. But the Mayo Clinic staff warns that smoking decreases the effect of the histamine-2 blockers and increases the amount of acid your stomach produces. The combination of histamine-2 blockers and alcohol also can have a multiplier effect on blood alcohol levels, increasing inebriation and other adverse effects of alcohol use.
Other Long-Term Effects
When Zantac was used more than a year, a few side effects have been reported in a small number of patients using the OTC Zantac 150. Side effects included blood immunoglobulin e (immune response) and eosinophil (white blood cell) count increases, diarrhea, kidney infections, insomnia, gastritis, migraines and cognitive problems, according to the eHealth Me website.