Aspirin: Description, Uses, Risks, Side Effects, Precautions


Aspirin is one of the oldest non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is the active ingredient of more than 50 over-the-counter drugs. About 2300 years ago, Hippocrates used a powder made from the bark of the white willow to treat pain and fever. The chemical compound derived from the willow tree bark was salicylate acid. It caused stomach pain even though it was effective in the treatment of rheumatic and other ailments. Felix Hoffman later developed a product called acetylsalicylic acid with reduced negative effects on the stomach. His employer, Friedrich Bayer & Company labeled it Aspirin.

How does it work?

Aspirin brings pain relief by reducing nerve sensitivity at the central nervous system and at the site of pain. It is a safe and cheap drug to prevent heart attacks and strokes because it reduces the production of prostaglandin. Prostaglandin can cause platelets in the blood to stick together, which can cause blocking of the blood vessels. This prevents the delivery of oxygen-rich blood to the tissues that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It doesn’t stop the cause that starts the pain but lowers the volume of pain messages by clinging to COX-2 and preventing it from sending the pain message.


It is prescribed for the treatment of mild pain, to reduce redness and swelling, to break a fever, and prevent blood from clotting. It relieves pain caused by headaches, fever, rheumatic and infection. It reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and dementia. There is growing evidence that the use of Aspirin reduces the risk of certain cancers such as colon, lung and pancreatic cancer. The Food and Drug Administration has approved its use to prevent a second heart attack or stroke. It is also useful to reduce the risk of recurrent blockages. It reduces the risk of death if taken when the first sign of a heart attack appears. It is used for patients with Alzheimer’s disease to improve blood flow and is also effective as an anti-inflammatory drug for the treatment of arthritis.


The use of it carries risks even though it effective in the treatment of many medical conditions. It should never be used for more that 5 consecutive days without medical monitoring.

Reye syndrome

Aspirin is not recommended for children. Some countries limit the use of Aspirin to adults and children of 12 years and older because of the risk of Reye syndrome in some children with chicken pox and flue. It is a dangerous illness that can lead to permanent damage and death under these circumstances.

Gastric irritation

The drug affects the stomach lining by preventing COX-1 from performing its function. This can cause vomiting, nausea, pain and heartburn. Prolonged use of the drug can cause internal bleeding to the stomach, liver and brain.

Ears ringing

It can lead to ringing in the ears and temporary hearing loss, which normally disappears when the dosage is stopped.

Kidney function

It can affect the way your kidney produces urine. It may also lead to bloody or black stools.


There are a number of people who are allergic to aspirin. They may experience asthma attacks and swelling.


It is sometimes prescribed for pregnant woman with a condition called pre-eclampsia but should be avoided during the last three months of pregnancy.

Other side effects include drowsiness, lightheadedness and mental confusion.


You should tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or allergic to Aspirin. Don’t use it if you suffer from asthma or other breathing related disorders and never take it if you are a chronic alcohol user. You should also inform your doctor of any other medication that you use and if you have a history of bleeding, gout or ulcers. The doctors normally prescribe that you stop using aspirin 3 days before surgery.


Don’t use it for prolonged periods and follow the instructions on the packet. Drink it with water or milk to reduce the effects on the stomach. Take it exactly as prescribed. Contact the poison center in the case of an overdose.

Aspirin is one of the most used over the counter medication for pain relief. But as scientists discover its positive effects and new uses, it may become even more of a household name in the near future for cardiovascular health.

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