10 Things You Should Know About Aspirin

Aspirin Was the Primary Treatment for Arthritis Years Ago

Aspirin tablets
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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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Aspirin Formulations

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.

Children's chewable tablets contain 81 milligrams of aspirin. 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).

4. How to Take Aspirin

Aspirin should be taken according to the directions on the package or exactly as prescribed by your doctor. 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 doctor'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.

5. Precautions With Aspirin for Children or Teens

Before giving aspirin to a child or teenager, ask your doctor. Some children or teenagers may develop Reye's syndrome after taking aspirin, especially if they have a virus, chicken pox, 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.

6. Aspirin 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:

7. Preventing Drug Interactions With Aspirin

It is wise to discuss any supplements, herbal medications, and over-the-counter medications with your doctor. You might not think to tell your doctor 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 doctor. You may need a dose adjustment or to be monitored more closely for side effects. Tell your doctor 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

8. Increased Risks of Allergic Reaction to Aspirin

Tell your doctor if you ever had asthma, problems with a frequently stuffy or 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 doctor may suggest an alternative.

9. Alcohol and Aspirin

If you drink three or more alcoholic drinks each day, ask your doctor 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 doctor. The goal in discussing these matters with your doctor before taking aspirin is to avoid future kidney problems, liver toxicity, and bleeding problems caused by adding aspirin into the mix.

10. Avoid Aspirin 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 doctor. If aspirin is taken during the last few months of pregnancy, it can harm the fetus and possibly cause problems during delivery.

View Article Sources
  • Arthritis Today Drug Guide. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/medication/drug-guide/.
  • Aspirin. MedlinePlus. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682878.html