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Heartburn: Symptoms and Management Tips

Heartburn: Symptoms and Management Tips

Heartburn is a common sensation often felt after drinking carbonated drinks or eating acidic foods. Although you always experience this burning sensation in your chest or throat, it does not necessarily mean that you are currently experiencing heartburn. For you to clearly understand this condition, let’s find out how to identify heartburn and the symptoms it comes with.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is the burning sensation felt at the center of the chest that may extend to the throat; it often occurs after mealtimes.

Experiencing heartburn from time to time is normal. However, if this condition becomes frequent, and it starts to negatively affect your daily life, then it might be a sign of a more serious health problem.

8 Common Questions About Heartburn, Answered

How to identify heartburn?

To learn how to identify heartburn, you must first be aware that heartburn is a symptom and not a disorder. If you have heartburn, then you most likely have acid reflux, the most common trigger of heartburn.

Acid reflux happens when acid backs up in your esophagus resulting in that burning sensation called heartburn. If acid reflux lasts for more than 2 weeks, then it becomes a digestive disorder called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Apart from the duration, if it causes bothersome symptoms or damage to the esophagus then it becomes GERD.

Heartburn can also be mistaken for a more serious health emergency like a heart attack. Chest pain is one of the most common heartburn symptoms, however, the pain that you get from heartburn is quite similar to a heart attack. It can be very similar; that doctors need to conduct extensive tests to rule out a heart attack.

If you suffer from chest pain, it is best to call for an emergency so you can get immediate medical care.

To further know how to identify heartburn, here are other health conditions that give off the same burning chest pain sensation:


Chest pain or discomfort as a result of insufficient blood flow to the heart.


If gallstones obstruct your bile duct, then you would most likely feel a sharp pain on the upper or upper-right side of your abdomen.

This pain is more excruciating than heartburn and can’t be relieved by an antacid.

Stomach ulcer

The sores in the lining of your stomach can cause a lasting stinging sensation in your upper abdomen. You might need an antibiotic to treat a stomach ulcer if it’s caused by a bacterial infection. For a short time relief, an antacid can get the job done.

Hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when a part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. The symptoms of hiatal hernia include burping, nausea, acid reflux, and chest pain or discomfort, which are similar to the symptoms of heartburn.


This condition is a result of an inflammation of the linings around the lungs (pleura). Pleuritis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection that can lead to heartburn-like chest pains.

What are the symptoms of heartburn?

Another way on how to identify heartburn is by recognizing its symptoms. The common heartburn symptoms include:

  • A painful burning sensation that starts in the upper abdomen and rises to the chest or throat.
  • You can feel the burning sensation right after eating, when laying down, or when bending over.
  • Heartburn is often accompanied by an awful sour or bitter taste in the mouth that can cause bad breath.
  • Recurring coughs or hiccups
  • Hoarse voice
  • An urge to regurgitate the food you just ate.

Taking an antacid can easily give you relief if you suffer from heartburn.

On the other hand, if you’re experiencing a heart attack, these are the symptoms that can rule out heartburn:

  • Pain is not exclusive in the chest but can also be felt in the arms, neck, jaw, or the back.
  • Pressure and tightness can also be felt in the chest and the other body parts mentioned prior.
  • Having difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and abdominal pain
  • Cold sweat
  • Shortness of breath

Please note that the likelihood of a heart attack also depends on the age and other present comorbidities of the patient.

How to manage heartburn symptoms?

Here are do’s and don’t on how to alleviate heartburn symptoms:


  • Lose and maintain a healthy weight, especially if you’re overweight or obese
  • Eat healthy meals frequently and in smaller portions.
  • Elevate your head when lying down when you have persistent heartburn. You can do this by putting additional height under your mattress to elevate your body from waist up. Raising your head when lying down prevents stomach acid from rising towards your chest or throat.
  • Stress can worsen your heartburn, so it is better if you find ways on how to destress.


  • Limit or avoid foods that can trigger heartburn such as carbonated sodas, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, as well as acidic and spicy foods.
  • Avoid late-night meals or refrain from eating within 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
  • Do not lay down right after eating.
  • Skip wearing tight-fitting clothes that put excess pressure on your waist.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Never self-medicate. Always consult a doctor before trying out any medications or treatments.

Key takeaways

Heartburn may not be as serious as other medical conditions, but when it becomes more frequent, and it interferes with your daily routine, then it is best to get it checked right away.

Knowing how to identify heartburn is important, especially for people who have been suffering from it repeatedly.

However, seeking emergency medical care is still the best thing to do if you or someone you know is experiencing burning chest pains. Immediate medical intervention is needed for this condition, as this might be a sign of an ongoing heart attack rather than heartburn.

Learn more about Digestive Health and Heartburn, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Heartburn https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373229 Accessed August 30, 2020

Heartburn and Acid Reflux https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/ Accessed August 30, 2020

Heartburn https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview Accessed August 30, 2020

9 Serious Conditions That Can Feel Like Heartburn https://www.health.com/condition/gerd/9-serious-conditions-that-can-feel-like-heartburn Accessed August 30, 2020

Heartburn or Heart Attack: When to Worry https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/in-depth/heartburn-gerd/art-20046483 Accessed August 30, 2020

What Does Heartburn Feel Like? https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/what-does-heartburn-feel-like Accessed August 30, 2020

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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated Jun 03
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel