Aspirin is a medicine that relieves minor aches and pains and reduces fever.It is used for headaches, toothaches, muscle pain, menstrual cramps, joint pain from arthritis, and in adults for aches associated with colds and flu. Some people take aspirin daily to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, or other heart problems.
Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is sold over the counter and comes in many forms, from the familiar white tablets to chewing gum to rectal suppositories. Coated, chewable, buffered, and extended release forms are available. Many other over-the-counter combination medicines contain aspirin as one of their active ingredients.
Aspirin belongs to a group of drugs called salicylates. Other members of thisgroup include sodium salicylate, choline salicylate, and magnesium salicylate. These drugs are more expensive and no more effective than aspirin. However, they are a little easier on the stomach. Aspirin is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and provides quick and relatively long-lasting pain relief. Aspirin also reduces inflammation. Researchers believe these effects come aboutbecause aspirin blocks the production of pain-producing chemicals called prostaglandins.
Besides relieving pain and reducing inflammation, aspirin also lowers fever by acting on the part of the brain that regulates temperature. The brain thensignals the blood vessels to widen, which allows heat to leave the body morequickly.
Although it is a common over-the-counter medication, aspirin, even children'saspirin, should never be given to children or teenagers with flu-like symptoms or chickenpox. In children, aspirin can cause Reye's syndrome, a life-threatening condition that affects the nervous system and liver. As many as 30% of children and teenagers who develop Reye's syndrome die. Those who survive may have permanent brain damage.
No one should take aspirin for more than 10 days in a row unless told to by aphysician. Anyone with fever should not take aspirin for more than 3 days without a physician's consent. Do not to take more than the recommended daily dosage. Check with a physician before giving aspirin to a child under 12 yearsfor arthritis, rheumatism, or any condition that requires long-term use of the drug.
Some people should never use aspirin without first checking with their physician. These include pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding (aspirin can pass into breast milk), people with a history of bleeding problems, people whoare taking blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin), people with a history of ulcers, and people with a history of asthma or nasal polyps. Peoplewho are allergic to fenoprofen, ibuprofen, indomethacin, ketoprofen, meclofenamate sodium, naproxen, sulindac, tolmetin, or the orange food-coloring tartrazine may also be allergic to aspirin.
People with AIDS or AIDS-related complex who are taking AZT (zidovudine) should avoid aspirin because it can increase the risk of bleeding. People with liver damage or severe kidney failure also should not take aspirin.
Aspirin should not be taken before surgery, as it can increase the risk of excessive bleeding. Because of this risk, do not take aspirin daily over long periods to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack, for example unless advised to do so by a physician.
The most common side effects or aspirin are stomachache, heartburn, loss of appetite, and small amounts of blood in stools. Less common side effects are rashes, hives, fever, vision problems, liver damage, thirst, stomach ulcers, and bleeding. People who are allergic to aspirin or those who have asthma, rhinitis, or polyps in the nose may have trouble breathing after taking aspirin.
It may increase, decrease, or change the effects of many drugs. Aspirin can make drugs such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex) and valproic acid (Depakote, Depakene) more toxic. If taken with blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin (Coumadin) and dicumarol, aspirin can increase the risk of excessive bleeding. Aspirin counteracts the effects of other drugs, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta blockers that lower blood pressure, and medicines used to treat gout (probenecid and sulfinpyrazone). Blood pressure may drop unexpectedly and cause fainting or dizziness if aspirin is taken along with nitroglycerin tablets. Aspirin may also interact with diuretics, diabetes medicines, other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen), seizure medications, and steroids. Anyone who is taking these drugs should ask his or her physician whether they can safely take aspirin.