Heartburn and acid reflux are extremely uncomfortable and can cause permanent damage to the esophagus. Before filling a prescription or opting for an over the counter treatment, heartburn sufferers should think twice before taking a heartburn medication like Nexium or Prilosec. There is no shortage of side effects associated with this class of drugs, but a recent study found heartburn drugs put users at a higher risk of the stomach flu.

Research conducted at the Australian National University looked at 38,000 patients over six years and found patients who regularly use heartburn medications are one and a half times more likely to suffer from the stomach flu requiring hospitalization than patients not taking heartburn medications.

Researchers believe drugs like Nexium and Prilosec lower a patient’s ability to fight infections. These drugs work to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach, thereby relieving heartburn, but acid in the stomach is the first line of defense against pathogens like the stomach flu.

This also puts patients at a higher risk for more serious gastrointestinal infections like Clostridium Difficile, also called C. diff. This infection can cause patients to experience as many as 40 bowel movements a day and can be life-threatening if not treated in time.

Infections aren’t the only side effects heartburn drug users need to watch out for. The drugs can also cause chronic kidney disease and complete kidney failure. Patients who take heartburn medications like Nexium and Prilosec have a 96% increased chance of developing end-stage kidney failure within five years of starting to use them.

Nexium and Prilosec can also have dangerous interactions with other drugs. Patients taking blood thinners and heartburn drugs increase their risk of suffering a heart attack within 90 days of starting both medications by 29%.

With dangerous side effects, an increasing number of Nexium and Prilosec lawsuits has been filed around the country. While the lawsuits are in the very early stages, they could grow substantially in number.