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Aspirin Poisoning

Aspirin Poisoning Overview

Aspirin is a trade name for acetylsalicylic acid, a common pain reliever (also called an analgesic). The earliest known uses of the drug can be traced back to the Greek physician Hippocrates in the fifth century BC. He used powder extracted from the bark of willows to treat pain and reduce fever.

  • Salicin, the parent of the salicylate drug family, was successfully isolated from willow bark in 1829. Sodium salicylate, a predecessor to aspirin, was developed, along with salicylic acid, as a pain reliever in 1875.
  • Sodium salicylate was not often popular though, because it irritated the stomach. However, in 1897, Felix Hoffman changed the face of medicine forever. Hoffman was a German chemist working for Bayer. He had been using the common pain reliever of the time, sodium salicylate, to treat his father's arthritis. The sodium salicylate caused his father the same stomach trouble it caused other people, so Hoffman attempted to create a less acidic salicylate formula. His work led to the synthesis of acetylsalicylic acid, or ASA. This soon became the pain reliever of choice for doctors around the globe.
  • In the 1970s, British pharmacologist John Vane, PhD, began studying how aspirin works to relieve pain and reduce fever. Vane and his colleagues found that aspirin inhibits the release of a hormonelike substance called prostaglandin. This chemical helps regulate blood vessel elasticity and changes the functioning of blood platelets. Thus aspirin can affect blood clotting and ease inflammation.

Aspirin Poisoning Causes

  • Intentional and accidental

    • Intentional: For a variety of reasons, some people intentionally ingest poisons or poison others. Some reasons include the following:

    • Accidental

      • Accidental poisonings usually affect children. From 1972-1976, there were 1-2 million cases of accidental poisoning per year in the United States. Since 1976, the number of accidental poisonings has dropped to about 500,000 cases per year. This decrease is attributed to the Poison Prevention Packaging Act and to poison prevention publicity.

      • The most common sources of accidental poisoning were plants, various types of cleaners (soaps, detergents, and household cleaners), vitamins and minerals, and aspirin. Aspirin is no longer the most common cause of accidental poisoning. This is probably because of child-resistant packaging.
  • Inappropriate dosing in children and elderly people: Hundreds of medications available both over-the-counter and by prescription contain aspirin or aspirin-like substances. Unintentional aspirin poisoning can result if these medications are taken in combination, in inappropriate doses, or over a long time period. This is especially likely to occur in older people with chronic health problems.

Aspirin Poisoning Symptoms

The earliest symptoms of acute aspirin poisoning may include ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and impaired hearing. More clinically significant signs and symptoms include rapid breathing (hyperventilation), vomiting, dehydration, fever, double vision, and feeling faint.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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