10 Things You Should Know About Aspirin

Aspirin is a commonly used over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer. Knowing how to use aspirin safely decreases the chance for undesirable side effects. Here are 10 things you should know about aspirin.

Bottle of aspirin close up
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Aspirin Has Several Uses

Aspirin is used to treat fever, pain, and inflammation. Aspirin can also be prescribed to treat symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, and other rheumatic conditions. Low-dose aspirin may be recommended for patients with coronary artery disease.

Aspirin Is a Salicylate Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID)

There are three categories of NSAIDs: salicylates, traditional NSAIDs, and COX-2 selective NSAIDs. Aspirin is a salicylate.


Acetylsalicylic acid is the generic name of aspirin and there are many other brand names. Aspirin is available as an extended-release tablet, meaning, the medication is released slowly over time. Aspirin is also available as a regular tablet, enteric-coated tablet, delayed-release tablet (medication is released sometime after it is taken), extended-release tablet (medication is released slowly over time), chewable tablet, gum, and suppositories. Aspirin also can be an ingredient in a combination drug. For example, Percodan contains aspirin and oxycodone.

Aspirin tablets and caplets come in 325-milligram or 500-milligram strength. The enteric-coated aspirin caplets and tablets are also available in these strengths. Also, it's easy to find aspirin tablets and caplets of 81-milligram dosages, because this is the dose most cardiologists recommend for patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).

How to Take Aspirin

Aspirin should be taken according to the directions on the package or exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Non-prescription, over-the-counter aspirin is usually taken every four to six hours as needed to treat pain or fever. To ensure the safe and effective use of aspirin, arthritis patients must follow their practitioner's orders precisely. Beyond dosage instructions, follow these suggestions for safe use of aspirin:

  • Extended-release tablets should be swallowed whole and taken with a full glass of water. Breaking, crushing, or chewing the tablets is strongly discouraged since it would interfere with the extended-release aspect and could deliver too much at once.
  • Aspirin tablets should be swallowed with a full glass of water.
  • Chewable aspirin tablets can be chewed, crushed, or taken whole. Drinking a full glass of water after taking the tablets is recommended.

Precautions for Children or Teens

Before giving aspirin to a child or teenager, ask your healthcare provider. Some children or teenagers may develop Reye's syndrome after taking aspirin, especially if they have a virus, chickenpox, or influenza. Reye's syndrome is a serious condition. With Reye's syndrome, fat builds up in the brain, liver, and other organs of the body.

Side Effects

Most patients who take aspirin have few or no side effects. Serious side effects are possible, however. It is recommended that patients take the lowest effective dose of aspirin in order to minimize side effects. Possible side effects associated with aspirin include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal burning
  • Gastritis
  • Serious gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Liver toxicity
  • Stomach ulcers and bleeding without abdominal pain
  • Ringing in the ears (usually is dose dependent)
  • Rash
  • Kidney problems
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Preventing Drug Interactions

It is wise to discuss any supplements, herbal medications, and over-the-counter medications with your healthcare provider. You might not think to tell your practitioner that you take aspirin, but it can interact with many other drugs.

If you take any of the following medications and take aspirin too, discuss it with your healthcare provider. You may need a dose adjustment or to be monitored more closely for side effects. Tell your practitioner if you take:

  • Diamox (glaucoma or seizure medication)
  • Dilantin (anti-seizure drug)
  • Depakote (seizures, migraines, bipolar)
  • ACE inhibitors (blood pressure)
  • Blood thinners including coumadin, heparin
  • Beta-blockers (blood pressure)
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Medications for diabetes
  • Medications for arthritis or gout

Increased Risks of Allergic Reaction

Tell your healthcare provider if you ever had asthma, problems with a frequently stuffy or a runny nose or nasal polyps. If you have or had any of these conditions, there is a risk you may have an allergic reaction to aspirin. Your practitioner may suggest an alternative.

Alcohol and Aspirin

If you drink three or more alcoholic drinks each day, ask your healthcare provider if you can take aspirin or other pain medications. For the same reason, discuss existing heartburn, stomach pain, a history of ulcers, anemia, or bleeding with your practitioner. The goal in discussing these matters with your healthcare provider before taking aspirin is to avoid future kidney problems, liver toxicity, and bleeding problems caused by adding aspirin into the mix.

Avoid When Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Aspirin should be avoided during pregnancy and in mothers who are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking aspirin, discuss it with your practitioner. If aspirin is taken during the last few months of pregnancy, it can harm the fetus and possibly cause problems during delivery.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Aspirin and your heart: Many questions, some answers. Harvard Medical School. May 2018.

  3. Aspirin Therapy in Heart Disease. Cleveland Clinic. April 2019.

  4. Reye Syndrome. American Academy of Family Physicians. February 2018.

  5. Aspirin for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke: Know the Facts. US Food & Drug Administration. December 2019.

  6. AcetaZOLAMIDE For Injection, USP 500 mg - FDA. US Food & Drug Administration.

  7. Highlights Of Prescribing Information:Depakote. US Food & Drug Administration.

  8. Could nasal polyps be the cause of your stuffy nose?. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

  9. Pain Relievers: Understanding Your OTC Options. American Academy of Family Physicians. July 2019.

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