What is Aspirin?

Aspirin or its active ingredient name Acetyl Salicylic Acid is in a drug class called Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug (NSAID). NSAID is used as a painkiller to relieve mild to moderate pain. Aspirin is available as an over-the-counter medicine which can be obtained without prescription. Currently, there are more than 20 products containing aspirin registered in Malaysia.

When is Aspirin Needed?

The following are functions of Aspirin:

  1. As painkiller

    To relieve pain due to headache, toothache, muscle ache, period pain and many more.

  2. As blood thinner

    Doctors’ prescription is needed for patients to use aspirin as blood thinner. It prevents the formation of platelet which can cause blood to clot and thus may lead to heart attack or stroke. Aspirin is used by patients who had experienced heart attack or stroke, received heart surgery (stent or bypass) and who are at high risk of getting a heart attack.

How Aspirin Acts In The Body?

The function of Aspirin is to reduce the production of our body natural substances called prostaglandin. Aspirin acts as cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) enzyme inhibitors, with both functioning as prostaglandin producer.

Prostaglandin production can cause blood clot, pain and inflammation. As aspirin is a non selective drug, the useful function of prostaglandin which is to maintain the thickness of stomach lining will be affected. This explains the causal effects of aspirin intake such as stomach ulcer, stomach discomfort and others.

How To Take Aspirin

Aspirin can be taken whole with a glass of water or dissolves in water before drinking. It depends on the formulation of aspirin tablets. You should refer to the label provided or get advice from doctors and pharmacists on how to take aspirin correctly. To prevent from stomach ulcer or discomfort, aspirin should be taken with food or after food. Dose of aspirin depends on the treatment.

Aspirin doses

  1. Painkiller

    300mg to 900mg every 4 to 6 hours. Maximum dose is 4g per day. You should stop taking aspirin if you’re still experiencing pain after 10 days

  2. Blood thinner

    75mg to 325mg per day. The suitable dose depends on treatment needs and patients condition. Daily intake of aspirin should be under doctor’s supervision. If missed a dose, aspirin should be taken as soon as you remembers it. Do not double the dose to replace the missed dose. Do not stop taking aspirin before seeking for doctor’s advice.

Possible Side Effects

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Stomach pain

  • Heartburn

If you’re experiencing side effects such as rash, difficulty in breathing or swelling on eyes, face, lips, tongue or throat, you’re probably allergic to aspirin. You need to stop taking aspirin and seek medical attention.

Signs of aspirin overdose are hyperventilation, sweating, ringing in ears (tinnitus), loss of hearing, uncontrolled shaking of a part of the body, seizures and loss of consciousness for a period of time. This patient needs to be taken to the hospital for further treatment.

Things That You Should Know

  1. Aspirin should not be given to children and adolescent below 16 years old. Consumption of aspirin in children and adolescent below 16 years old can cause Reye Syndrome (fat accumulates in brain, liver and other organs)

  2. Aspirin should not be given to patients who are allergic to it. Allergy to aspirin usually happens in asthma patients.

  3. Inform your doctor if you’re pregnant (especially after week 32 of pregnancy), plan to get pregnant or breast feeding. This is because consumption of aspirin may harm the baby or cause problems during delivery if aspirin is taken after week 32 of pregnancy

  4. If you’re taking aspirin daily, seek doctor’s advice before taking other NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Naproxen and others)

  5. If you’re having surgery (including dental surgery), you should inform your doctor that you’re currently on aspirin

  6. Inform your doctor if you had experience stomach ulcer, bleeding problems such as hemophilia and anemia. This is important to prevent you from getting aspirin as a choice of treatment.

  7. Aspirin is not suitable for the treatment of gout.

  8. If you’re consuming alcohol every day, asks for doctor’s advice before taking aspirin as a painkiller

  9. Seek doctor’s or pharmacist’s advice before taking aspirin if you’re currently on dietary supplements such as Evening Primrose Oil, Ginkgo, Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acid), Danshen, Dong Quai and others.

  10. Aspirin should be kept in original packing, at room temperature and dry place. Aspirin should be thrown away if the tablet has strong vinegar smell.

Last Reviewed : 05 June 2014
Writer : Nur Izyani bt. Hanafi