Aspirin Sensitivity and Asthma

Medications that cause an asthma attack usually involve a hypersensitivity reaction to a particular drug. The most common drug associated with asthma attacks is aspirin. Most people with asthma can take aspirin without the risk of an attack, but aspirin sensitivity is a concern for a small percentage of asthma sufferers. The only way to know if aspirin is a trigger for you, is if a bad reaction occurs upon taking it. Generally, it is recommended that all asthma sufferers avoid aspirin.

How Aspirin Triggers Symptoms of Asthma

When aspirin is metabolized in the body, a group of chemicals known as leukotrienes is produced. For some asthma sufferers, the amount of leukotrienes released is greater than normal. This chemical contracts the muscles surrounding the airways, which reduces the amount of air that can flow through. Aspirin also causes abdominal pain and blockages of nasal passages. Individuals with aspirin sensitivity may also develop excess nasal polyps which further reduce the flow of air.

Similar Drugs That May Cause an Asthma Attack

There are several over-the-counter medications that contain aspirin including Alka Seltzer Plus, Excedrin, Aquaprin and Bayer Children’s Cold Tablet. Notable prescription medications containing aspirin include Percodan, Fiorinal and Zoprin.

Many of these drugs are used to reduce pain and inflammation. In individuals with asthma, these drugs may cause inflammation of the airways in the lungs and lead to an asthma attack.

Alternatives for Aspirin Sensitivity

The best way to avoid an attack brought on by aspirin sensitivity is to avoid taking any medications that contain aspirin. There are drugs which can mitigate the effects of leukotrienes including Accolate, Singulair, and Zyflo, but they may only reduce the severity of the asthma attack. An alternative to aspirin for the relief of pain and inflammation is acetaminophen. Tylenol is the common brand name for acetaminophen.

“Asthma and Aspirin Sensitivity.” Partners Asthma Center
“Asthma Attacks.” University of Maryland Medical Center

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