Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid – ASA)
What is aspirin?
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. It is part of a group of pain relievers and fever reducers called non-steroidal 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 is also available in medicines that treat symptoms such as heartburn and upset stomach, occasional sleeplessness, migraines, or the multiple symptoms of the common cold.
In March 2019, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) updated their guidelines for prevention of cardiovascular disease. There is no change to the recommendations for aspirin in preventing a second heart attack or stroke. If you have not experienced a previous cardiac event, the new guidelines provide more precise criteria to help healthcare providers and patients to better determine, together, if and when aspirin therapy is appropriate. Consumers taking OTC aspirin should always read and follow directions on the Drug Facts label, and the ACC strongly advises people to always speak with their physician before stopping any aspirin regimen.
What is aspirin used to treat?
- Minor aches and pains
- Heartburn and upset stomach
- Symptoms associated with the common cold
Common brands containing aspirin:
- Bayer® Aspirin
- BC® Powder
- Store Brands (ex. Walmart’s “Equate” store brand or CVS Health store brand)
How much aspirin can you take?
Different types of products containing this active ingredient have different strengths. That’s why it is always important to read and follow the Drug Facts label. Most medicines warn against use of an active ingredient for longer than 7-10 days. Stop use and ask a doctor if symptoms persist.
Safety guide for aspirin
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.
Ask a healthcare provider before use if:
- 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.
- Talk to your healthcare provider before giving aspirin to a child who is under the age of 12.
Do not use if:
- 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.
- Do not give aspirin to a child or teenager who has or is recovering from the chicken pox or flu, because a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome is reported to be associated with aspirin.
Stop use and ask a doctor if:
- 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.
What are the side effects of 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.