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Aspirin is an internal analgesic available in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that temporarily relieves minor aches and pains and reduces fever. Aspirin is also available in prescription medicines in combination with other ingredients. On some prescription labels it may be abbreviated as ASA or spelled out as acetylsalicylic acid. It will never be abbreviated and will always say aspirin on OTC Drug Facts labels. Aspirin is part of a group of pain relievers and fever reducers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or 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 label directions. 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 not be contained in all products marketed under these brands. Please read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully for active ingredient information for specific products. 

Tips for Medicines with Aspirin

When using aspirin-containing medicines, it is important to know that:

  • 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 label directions.
  • You should not take more medicine or for a longer period of time than the label instructs unless instructed by a doctor.

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 doctor 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.

Ask a healthcare professional before use if:

  • You drink more than three or more alcoholic drinks a day.
  • You are currently using a medicine containing an NSAID (aspirin, magnesium salicylate, naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, or 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 (naproxen sodium, magnesium salicylate, ibuprofen, or ketoprofen) without a doctor’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 under the advice and recommendation of a healthcare professional.

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 if you begin to lose your hearing.
  • You take too much. Immediately contact a doctor or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.

If you have questions about any of the medicines you are taking or if you have any unexpected side effects, talk to a healthcare professional. And of course, keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.

Tips for Parents

  • Do not give an aspirin-containing medicine to a child under the age of 12 unless a doctor 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.

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