What Is Aspirin?

Aspirin is medication used to treat fever, pain, and inflammation in the body.

It also prevents blood clots, stroke, chest pain, and heart attack in certain people.

This drug comes in an over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription form, in a variety of brand names, and is also found in many combination products.

Aspirin is in a group of drugs called salicylates, which work by stopping the production of prostaglandin, substances in the body that cause inflammation.

There is some evidence that aspirin may reduce the risk of developing cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Aspirin is also sometimes used to treat rheumatic fever (a condition that can develop after strep throat) and Kawasaki disease (an illness that can cause heart problems in kids).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Bayer aspirin in 1965.

Aspirin Warnings

Before taking aspirin, tell your doctor if you have or have ever had:

  • Asthma
  • Frequent stuffed or runny nose
  • Nasal polyps (growths on the linings of the nose)
  • Frequent heartburn, upset stomach, or stomach pain
  • Ulcers
  • Anemia
  • Gout
  • Diabetes
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Hemophilia (a bleeding disorder) or any other bleeding conditions
  • You should ask your doctor before giving aspirin to a child or teenager. The medicine can cause a serious and sometimes fatal condition known as Reye’s syndrome.

Tell your doctor you are taking aspirin before having any type of surgery, including dental procedures. Also, tell your healthcare provider you are taking this medicine before having any type of lab work, as aspirin may interfere with the results.

You shouldn’t take aspirin to treat pain for longer than 10 days or to treat a fever that lasts longer than three days, as this may signal a more serious condition.

Talk to your doctor if you have surgery to remove your tonsils to determine which types of pain medication are safe to take.

If you take aspirin regularly to prevent a heart attack or stroke, you shouldn’t take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as naproxen or diclofenac) to treat pain without first talking to your doctor.

Aspirin may cause stomach/intestinal bleeding and ulcers. Older adults may be more likely to suffer from this side effect.

Pregnancy and Aspirin

Taking aspiring during pregnancy may harm an unborn baby’s heart, reduce birth weight, or cause other effects. You should talk to you doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking aspirin.

The medicine can also pass into breast milk and may harm a breastfeeding baby. You shouldn’t breastfeed while taking aspirin.

Aspirin for Dogs and Cats

Aspirin may be given to dogs to relieve pain. Some veterinarians recommend using buffered aspirin (e.g., Bufferin), given with food, to prevent digestive problems.

However, aspirin must be administered with extreme care when given to cats.

Small doses of aspirin can produce a loss of appetite, depression, and vomiting. Talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog or cat this drug.


Aspirin Side Effects

Common Side Effects of Aspirin

You should tell your doctor if any of the following side effects become severe or don’t go away:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Serious Side Effects of Aspirin

You should call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following serious side effects:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of hearing
  • Hives or rash
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Wheezing or breathing difficulties
  • Hoarseness
  • Fast heartbeat or fast breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Bright red blood in stools or black or tarry stools

Aspirin Interactions

You should tell your doctor about all prescription, non-prescription, illegal, recreational, herbal, nutritional, or dietary drugs you’re taking, especially:


Acetazolamide (Diamox)

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors such as benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), fosinopril (Monopril), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), moexipril (Univasc), perindopril, (Aceon), quinapril (Accupril), ramipril (Altace), and trandolapril (Mavik)

Anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin) and heparin

Beta blockers such as atenolol (Tenormin), labetalol (Normodyne), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), nadolol (Corgard), and propranolol (Inderal)

Diuretics (water pills)

Medications for diabetes or arthritis

Medications for gout such as probenecid and sulfinpyrazone (Anturane)

Methotrexate (Trexall)

Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)

Phenytoin (Dilantin)

Valproic acid (Depakene, Depakote)

Aspirin and Alcohol

Before taking aspirin, you should talk to your doctor if you consume three or more alcoholic drinks a day.

Alcohol and tobacco products can increase your risk of stomach bleeding while taking aspirin.

Aspirin Dosage

Aspirin comes as a regular tablet, a delayed-release tablet, a chewable tablet, a powder, a gum, and a rectal suppository.

It’s typically taken every four to six hours to treat fever and pain. It’s usually taken once a day to lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Typical dosages range from 50 milligrams (mg) to 6,000 mg, daily.

You should swallow the delayed-release tablets with a full glass of water. These tablets don’t work immediately after they are taken, so you shouldn’t use them for quick pain relief.

The chewable tablets can be crushed, chewed, or swallowed whole. You should drink a full glass of water right after taking this form of the medication.

Aspirin Overdose

Symptoms of an aspirin overdose include stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

If you suspect an overdose, contact a poison control center or emergency room immediately. You can get in touch with a poison control center at (800) 222-1222.

Missed Dose of Aspirin

If you miss a dose of aspirin, take it as soon as you remember.

However, if it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue on your regular dosing schedule. Don’t double up on doses to make up for a missed one.

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