Sodium bicarbonate is a medication that's often prescribed as an antacid to relieve the symptoms of heartburn and acid indigestion. Sodium bicarbonate is also used to treat a potentially dangerous condition called metabolic acidosis. In either case, the dosage of sodium bicarbonate is carefully controlled so that the risk of adverse side effects is reduced.
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For patients suffering from heartburn or indigestion, sodium bicarbonate is given as a effervescent powder, noneffervescent powder and in tablet form, MayoClinic.com reports. In all forms, the dosage for a child under 6 must be prescribed by a doctor, as children's dosages vary depending on a number of factors.
As an effervescent powder, children from 6- to 12-years-old require 1 to 1.9 g, or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp., of sodium bicarbonate in a glass of cold water. Older children and adults should be given 3.9 to 10 g, or 1 to 2 1/2 teaspoonfuls, of the drug in a glass with cold water.
Adults taking sodium bicarbonate in noneffervescent powder form should take 1/2 tsp. in a glass of water every two hours.
In tablet form, sodium bicarbonate can treat heartburn in children if given in a dose of 520 mg. This dose can be repeated once 30 minutes after the initial dose. For adults and teenagers, the dose ranges from 325 mg to 2 g, one to four times per day.
Mild Metabolic Acidosis
Sodium bicarbonate is given as an injection to treat complications associated with metabolic acidosis, which is a condition characterized by high levels of acidity in the body. In nonemergency cases of metabolic acidosis, sodium bicarbonate is mixed with other intravenous fluids and introduced gradually to the patient over a four- to eight-hour period, Drugs.com explains. The dosage depends on body weight. Adults and older children receive 2 to 5 mEq per kg of body weight. The cycle is repeated until the metabolic acidosis is overcome.
Emergency Cases of Metabolic Acidosis
Severe metabolic acidosis can cause cardiac arrest. To prevent this, patients are given one to two 50 mL vials of sodium bicarbonate. The first dose is given immediately, while succeeding doses are given over time at a rate of 50 ml every five to 10 minutes, Drugs.com notes.
Metabolic acidosis in infants is typically an emergency situation due to the speed at which high acid levels can kill a child less than 2 years of age. These children are given 4.2 percent intravenous solution at a dose that should not exceed 8 mEq per kg of body weight per day.
Even at small doses, sodium bicarbonate can cause numerous side effects. The risk of side effects increase at higher dosages. Milder side effects include increased thirst, gas and stomach discomfort, according to MedlinePlus, a service of the National Institutes of Health. More dangerous side effects include severe headache, vomitus containing blood, behavioral changes, weakness, slow breathing, swelling in the legs and blood in your urine or feces. If you experience any of these more severe side effects, stop taking sodium bicarbonate and call your doctor right away.