Aspirin is an internal analgesic available in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that temporarily relieve minor aches and pains and reduce fevers. Aspirin is also available in prescription medicines in combination with other ingredients. On some prescription labels, aspirin may be abbreviated as ASA or spelled out as acetylsalicylic acid. It is never abbreviated on an OTC medicine Drug Facts label. Aspirin is part of a group of pain relievers and fever reducers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Aspirin can be found in single-ingredient oral pain relievers and fever reducers or in medicines that contain more than one active ingredient to treat migraines. It also is available in medicines that not only relieve pain or reduce fever, but treat additional symptoms as well, such as heartburn and upset stomach, occasional sleeplessness, or the multiple symptoms of the common cold.
Aspirin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to the Drug Facts label. But aspirin may not be appropriate for everyone. Parents and other caregivers should never give a medicine containing aspirin to a child or teenager who has or is recovering from chicken pox or flu, because a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome is reported to be associated with aspirin.
- Aspirin may cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include hives, facial swelling, asthma (wheezing), shock, skin reddening, rash, or blisters.
- Stomach bleeding may occur.
- You should carefully read and follow the Drug Facts label. You should not take more medicine or for a longer period of time than the label says unless instructed by a healthcare provider.
- You drink more than three or more alcoholic drinks a day.
- You are currently using a medicine containing an NSAID (e.g., aspirin, magnesium salicylate, naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, ketoprofen).
- You have stomach problems that last or come back, such as heartburn, upset stomach, or stomach pain; ulcers; or bleeding problems.
- You have asthma.
- You are taking a prescription blood thinner (anticoagulant) or a prescription medicine for gout, diabetes, or arthritis.
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding. Women in the last three months of pregnancy are specifically told not to use aspirin or any other NSAID (e.g., naproxen sodium, magnesium salicylate, ibuprofen, or ketoprofen) without a healthcare provider’s permission.
- You are considering starting an aspirin regimen. You should not take aspirin for any other reason than what it says on the label unless recommended by a healthcare provider.
- You are allergic to aspirin or any other pain reliever or fever reducer.
- You are a woman in the last three months of pregnancy unless your healthcare provider specifically tells you to. Problems in the unborn child or complications during delivery may occur.
- Tamper-evident packaging features such as seals, locks, and films are not clear or seem broken.
- An allergic reaction occurs. Seek medical help right away.
- Your fever gets worse or lasts more than three days, or if your pain gets worse and lasts more than 10 days.
- You have signs of stomach bleeding, such as if you feel faint, vomit blood, have stomach pain or upset that lasts or does not get better, or if you have bloody or black stools.
- Redness or swelling is present in the painful area or if any new symptoms appear.
- You hear ringing in your ears or you begin to lose your hearing.
- You take too much. Immediately contact a healthcare provider or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.
- Do not give an aspirin-containing medicine to a child under the age of 12 unless a healthcare provider tells you to.
- Do not give an OTC medicine containing aspirin to a child or teenager for chicken pox or flu due to a rare illness (Reye’s syndrome) reported to be associated with aspirin.
- Click here for more information on giving OTCs to children.