How Often You Can Take Aleve

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Aleve is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication used for pain relief and fever reduction. It is an oral, over-the-counter (OTC) formulation of naproxen.

Like generic naproxen and its other brands, Aleve has anti-inflammatory effects and is sometimes used to manage headaches, back pain, and symptoms of chronic disease, such as ankylosing spondylitis (a form of inflammatory arthritis), and osteoarthritis.

It's important to follow your doctor's recommendations to avoid potential side effects.

aleve serious side effects
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell


Aleve comes in capsule form and gel form. It is also available in a combination formulation that includes a sleep aid—25 milligrams (mg) diphenhydramine hydrochloride.

According to the manufacturer, the recommended dose for Aleve when used for pain treatment is one pill every eight to 12 hours. You can take two tablets within one hour for your first dose.

After your first dose, it is not recommended to take more than two pills in any eight to 12 hour time period or more than three in any 24 hour period.

One dose of Aleve contains 200 mg naproxen and 20 mg sodium.

Prescription naproxen is available in regular and extended-release formulations.

Missed Dose

If you miss a dose, you can skip it or take one as soon as you remember and then wait with to 12 hours before taking your next dose. Stay as close to your regular dosing schedule as possible and never double-dose this medication.

How to Store

Safely store Aleve by keeping it tightly closed in the container it came in, at room temperature and away from heat and moisture.

Discard it if it is outdated or if you don’t need it anymore. For safety, remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. You can also take unwanted drugs to certain pharmacies so they can properly dispose of them. Keep naproxen out of the reach of children.

Mechanism of Action and Safety

All medicines in the NSAID class, including naproxen, work by inhibiting the formation of chemicals in the body known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandins promote effects of inflammation that can include swelling, fever, and pain.

Naproxen is usually safe, but it has been associated with serious and even fatal side effects. These include GI tract, kidney, and cardiovascular complications.

Remember that because the side effects associated with this drug are frequently quite serious in nature, it’s best to take no more than the recommended dosage for the shortest time period necessary.

Your doctor will determine your medication dosing and frequency. Pharmacists are an excellent source of information for any questions you may have about your medications. It is important to follow the directions on the package carefully.

Side Effects

Some of the common side effects may include indigestion, heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, headache, dizziness, bruising, itching, and ringing in your ears.

Allergic Reaction

This drug has the potential for causing an allergic reaction.

This may show up as:

  • Hives
  • Facial swelling
  • Asthma
  • Skin rash
  • Blisters
  • Shock

If any of these symptoms occur, stop taking naproxen and seek emergency medical attention.

Stomach Bleeding

Prostaglandins naturally help protect your stomach from damage. When Aleve reduces your prostaglandin production, it can cause stomach bleeding.

Signs and symptoms of stomach bleeding include:

  • Severe stomach pain
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Vomiting blood

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these effects.

Cardiovascular Risks

Based on research findings, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required manufacturers to strengthen their warnings about cardiovascular health risks on NSAID packages and labeling.

These risks include elevated blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. You can have these effects even if you only use NSAIDs for a few weeks, and higher doses taken for longer periods of time may increase your risk.

That said, a 2016 Danish study found an association between short-term ibuprofen or diclofenac treatment with a risk of cardiovascular events, and did not identify any association specifically between naproxen and such events.

Symptoms that may indicate cardiovascular side effects that require immediate attention include fluid retention, chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath, slurred speech, and vision or balance problems.

Liver Damage

Liver damage is another potential complication of taking naproxen or other NSAIDs.

Symptoms of a liver problem include:

If you have any of these, stop taking naproxen and seek immediate medical attention.

Precautions and Contraindications

Taking any naproxen product just before or after a heart bypass operation is not recommended.

If you have heart disease, gastrointestinal (GI) problems, liver problems, kidney problems, or a history of stroke, be sure to check with your doctor before taking Aleve, because these conditions increase the risk of adverse effects from taking Aleve.

Other conditions that may increase your risk for the dangerous side effects of naproxen include asthma, polyps in the nose, bleeding and clotting disorders, being a smoker, and skin that's sensitive to sunlight.

If you are pregnant or planning to conceive, you should speak to your doctor before taking Aleve. Your doctor might recommend that you avoid this medication or that you use it with caution.

Aleve is not recommended for children under the age of 12 unless directed by their doctor. If your child is using Aleve or any form of naproxen, be sure to tell your doctor if your child has any changes in their weight, as the dose is weight-based.

This drug may cause birth defects when taken in the last trimester of pregnancy. It may also pass through breast milk.

NSAIDs come with the risk of ulcers, bleeding in the stomach lining, and other GI problems. These side effects can be very serious. Keep in mind that they can occur at any time, and may show up without warning.

  • Senior citizens may be at an even higher risk of GI complications.
  • Alcohol consumption in combination with naproxen can increase your risk for stomach and GI problems.

If you already have GI problems, work with your doctor to determine an appropriate pain relief solution.

Drug Interactions and Overdose

Many OTC medications contain NSAIDs. For this reason, it's very important to read all medication labels (OTC and prescribed) before using them. Be sure you're getting only one dose of an NSAID in the appropriate time periods.

If you think you may have overdosed, call 911 or your local poison control center.

Nutritional supplements, herbs, recreational drugs, and/or coffee can interact with naproxen and change the way it works in your body. Speak with your health provider about dosage amounts for each and/or alternative pain-relieving substances. And always talk to your doctor if you want or need to stop taking any medication.

Medications that may interact with naproxen in a harmful way include:

  • Alendronate, taken to prevent bone loss
  • Other NSAIDs, including aspirin
  • Other anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen or prednisone)
  • Entecavir, for hepatitis-B infections
  • Cidofovir, taken for eye infections in HIV patients
  • Cyclosporine, given to transplant patients
  • Water pills (diuretics)
  • Blood pressure medications, such as ACE inhibitors
  • Blood thinners such as Coumadin, or other medications treat or prevent blood clots
  • Methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug
  • Pemetrexed, a chemotherapy drug
  • Herbal products that contain feverfew, garlic, ginger, or Ginkgo biloba
  • Lithium medication such as Eskalith Lithobid

A Word From Verywell

Aleve may be helpful for your condition, but to make the most of it you need to use it safely. OTC medications, including Aleve, need to be used properly and with caution. Make sure to follow the dosage instructions and be aware of the possible side effects and interactions. If you feel that something isn't right, contact your doctor.

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Article Sources
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