Older adults who use proton pump inhibitors continuously have heightened odds of contracting acute gastroenteritis when winter viral epidemics peak.

That’s according to French researchers who analyzed records from a nationwide drug dispensing database that captured nearly 30% of the French population. Patients aged 75 and older who continuously took PPIs were found to be nearly twice as likely to experience gastroenteritis during winter outbreaks than those who did not use PPIs, reported Ana-Maria Vilcu, from the Sorbonne Université in Paris. The relative risk for all adults over age 45 who took the drugs was 1.8 times higher, she added.

PPIs are used to lessen the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Their use among the elderly is high. In fact, nearly half of U.S. adults taking the drugs are age 65 or older, according to a 2017 study.

Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever. The acute form lasts up to 14 days.

The new research was published in JAMA Network Open.