This Morning: Dr Helen gives advice on mixing painkillers
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And like all medicines aspirin can cause side effects – although not everyone gets them. The NHS recommends taking the “lowest dose” that works for you “for the shortest possible time” to reduce the risk of any unwanted side effects. Common side effects of the drug include mild indigestion and bleeding more easily than normal.
These tend to affect more than one in 100 people and are fairly manageable.
But there are other, far more serious side effects that can be of concern.
The health service explains that if “the whites of your eyes turn yellow or your skin turns yellow (this may be less obvious on brown or black skin), or your pee gets darker” it “can be a sign of liver problems”.
In that case it advises calling 111 immediately.
Aspirin is usually used for aches and pains such as headache, toothache and period pain.
But it can also be used to treat colds and flu-like symptoms, and to bring down a high temperature.
It is known as an acetylsalicylic acid and belongs to a group of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Aspirin combined with other ingredients is also available in some cold and flu remedies.
You can buy most types of aspirin from pharmacies, shops and supermarkets, although some types are only available on prescription.
It is not recommended for children under the age of 6.
Other serious side effects of aspirin are if:
- you cough up blood or have blood in your pee, poo or vomit
- the joints in your hands and feet are painful – this can be a sign of high levels of uric acid in the blood
- your hands or feet are swollen – this can be a sign of water retention
The drug can also lead to stomach ulcers.
“Aspirin can cause ulcers in your stomach or gut, especially if you take it for a long time or in big doses,” the NHS says.
“Your doctor may tell you not to take aspirin if you have a stomach ulcer, or if you’ve had one in the past.
“If you’re at risk of getting a stomach ulcer and you need a painkiller, take paracetamol instead of aspirin as it’s more gentle on your stomach.”
The NHS adds to “make sure” aspirin as a painkiller (including mouth gel) “is safe for you”, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you:
- have ever had an allergy to aspirin or similar painkillers such as ibuprofen
- have ever had a stomach ulcer
- have recently had a stroke (although depending on the kind of stroke you’ve had, your doctor may recommend that you take low-dose aspirin to prevent another one)
- have high blood pressure (hypertension)
- have indigestion
- have asthma or lung disease
- have ever had a blood clotting problem
- have liver or kidney problems
- have gout – it can get worse for some people who take aspirin
- have heavy periods – they can get heavier with aspirin
- are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding
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