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What is aspirin?
Aspirin is one of mankind’s miracle drugs. It originally came from white willow tree bark. It has many effects in the body, most of which are beneficial. These include pain relief, reducing fever and coating of the blood platelets which reduces the tendency to form clots. However, it can also have a detrimental effect in the stomach, increasing the risk of duodenal or stomach ulcers. Aspirin reduces a protective substance called prostaglandin. Without this protection, the stomach is more easily injured and ulcers may form.
What is it used for?
Aspirin is used for pain relief in many disorders such as arthritis. It is also used, usually in once a day dosage, to prevent heart attacks.
How do I take it?
Follow your physician’s instructions carefully. Take this drug with food, milk or a full glass of water to reduce stomach irritation. Regular tablets may be crushed or capsules opened and the contents sprinkled on food. However, the taste of aspirin is bitter. Keep all medications away from children. Never share your medications with anyone else.
What do I do for a missed dose?
If you miss a dose of this medicine, take it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular schedule. Do not double up on this medication.
Are there interactions with food or beverages?
Aspirin may be taken with food or milk. There are no interactions with alcohol but using alcohol while taking aspirin may increase irritation of the stomach lining and cause bleeding.
Are there interactions with other drugs?
An interaction generally means that one drug may increase or decrease the effect of another drug. Also, the more medications a person takes, the more likely there will be a drug interaction. It is important to remember that aspirin is a drug.
Interactions with this drug may occur with the following:
- blood thinners (Coumadin)
- oral antidiabetic drugs
- valproic acid (Depakene)
- captopril (Capoten)
- furosemide (Lasix)
- pironolactone (Aldactone)
- acetazolamide (Diamox)
- cimetidine (Tagamet)
- diltiazem (Cardizem)
- certain high blood pressure medicines
- arthritis medications (Advil, Naprosyn, Motrin, ibuprofen and many others)
Is there a problem if I have another disorder or disease?
At times, a drug may have a different or enhanced effect when other diseases are present. At other times, the drug may worsen or effect another disease. Children and teenagers should use aspirin only with physician direction, especially if they have the flu (influenza) or chicken pox. A rare but very serious disorder called Reye’s syndrome has been seen in these circumstances. Patients with advanced liver disease due to alcohol abuse are also cautioned to use aspirin only under a physician’s advice.
What about allergies?
People who have known allergies or asthma may be at an increased risk for a reaction from any new medication. The physician should always know a patient’s allergy history. Signs of an allergic reaction are hives, skin rash and itching. Of course, a person should not take aspirin if there has been a previous reaction to salicylates or tartrazine dye.
What if I’m pregnant, considering pregnancy or breast-feeding?
Most females now know that, if possible, no drug, including alcohol, should be taken during pregnancy or lactation. The potential danger, of course, is an injury to the baby. However, some drugs are much safer than others in this regard. So, the FDA has a grading system for each drug which reflects what is known medically. It ranks drugs from A, where medical studies show no evidence for danger to the fetus or mother, to B, C, D and X, where the medical evidence indicates that the risk to the fetus outweighs any benefit to the mother. Aspirin is ranked D. Always consult your physician before taking any drug during or when planning pregnancy.
What are the effects on sexual function?
There are no known adverse effects of aspirin on sexual function.
Are there other precautions?
- Dispose of any aspirin that gives off a vinegar-like odor. This smell is a sign of deterioration of the drug.
- Reye’s Syndrome is a rare but very serious illness that effects the brain and liver. It occurs in children and teenagers who have the flu or chicken pox, and who are given aspirin. Do not use aspirin in these circumstances without your physician’s advice.
- Regular aspirin use can cause bleeding from the stomach so notify your physician if you have gray to black stools which are an indication of stomach bleeding.
- Because of its blood thinning effect, aspirin should be avoided for one week prior to surgery to lessen the amount of postoperative bleeding.
- You should not take aspirin regularly along with megadoses of vitamin C as the aspirin level in the blood may reach toxic levels.
How long is it safe to take aspirin?
Because of its ability to erode and ulcerate the lining of the stomach, aspirin in doses of 6 to 8 tablets a day for pain relief and fever is recommended only for short-term use of 3 to 5 days. Taking a once a day dose for heart protection requires periodic physician supervision.
How about side effects?
Adverse reactions can occur with any drug, even over-the-counter medications. Some of these are mild such as a stomach upset, which may be avoided by taking the medication with food. Minor reactions may go away on their own but if they persist, contact the physician. For major reactions, the patient should contact the physician immediately.
For aspirin, the following are the observed side effects:
- ringing in ears
- severe stomach pain
- vomiting blood
- bloody stools
A physician’s comment…
What can you say about aspirin? It has been around for so long and has been advertised so heavily, we all assume it is a very safe drug. Many people now take a single regular aspirin or even the low dose 81 mg tablet once a day long-term for heart protection. This is generally okay but should only be done with a physician’s supervision. However, it is a drug and has many different effects in the body. Its long-term benefit for prevention of heart attacks is now well-established. However, aspirin, even in small doses taken for a long time, can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding. Keep in touch with your physician.