What Are Potential Risks of Aspirin?

Allison Boelcke

Aspirin is a type of medication that belongs to the drug group known as salicylates and is generally available over-the-counter, but may also be prescribed by a doctor in certain cases. It may be used in the treatment of pain, inflammation, or fever, and taken on an as-needed basis. Doctors may recommend daily aspirin therapy to people at risk for heart attack or stroke. Aspirin is thought to work at preventing these conditions by halting the body’s production of the substances that cause pain and inflammation, as well as blood clots that may contribute to heart attack and stroke. There are potential risks of aspirin that may outweigh the benefits in some individuals with certain preexisting conditions and make regular use unsafe.

Stomach bleeding is one of the most common risks of taking aspirin.
Stomach bleeding is one of the most common risks of taking aspirin.

One of the most common risks of aspirin is bleeding in the stomach and intestines; therefore, people with bleeding disorders are usually advised to not take the medication. Taking aspirin prior to surgery is also thought to increase the likelihood of bleeding complications during and after surgery. Symptoms of this bleeding include coughing up blood, vomit that appears black, and tarry stool. Combining alcohol with aspirin may make a person more likely to have stomach and intestinal bleeding. If bleeding is suspected, it is usually recommended to seek immediate medical attention to prevent permanent complications from blood loss.

Children should never be given aspirin to treat symptoms of chicken pox.
Children should never be given aspirin to treat symptoms of chicken pox.

Aspirin may also cause certain side effects in children. Pregnant women are often advised to not take the medication because it may increase the risk of heart problems and low birth weight for their unborn children. Potential risks of aspirin may develop in children under the age of 18 who take aspirin while experiencing viruses, especially fever or chicken pox. They may be at a risk of contracting Reye’s syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition in which fat deposits accumulate on organs, including the liver and brain.

Another of the potential risks of aspirin may occur in people with chronic respiratory issues, such as asthma, or who have experienced recurring nasal congestion, runny nose, or abnormal growths known as polyps within the nasal lining. These conditions may make a person more likely to have an allergic reaction to aspirin; therefore, a doctor may recommend alternative treatment to aspirin or may closely monitor patients taking the medication. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, rash, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and face. An allergic reaction to aspirin may be life-threatening if not treated in a timely manner and immediate emergency medical attention is generally recommended if symptoms are present.

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