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Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

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Topic Overview


Side effects

The most common side effects of NSAIDs are stomach upset, heartburn, and nausea. To help prevent these side effects, take NSAIDs with food and a glass of water.

  • NSAIDs can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms may include hives, swelling of the face, wheezing, and shock. If you have any of these symptoms, call911or other emergency services immediately.
  • For safety, read the label carefully and do not take more than prescribed. Taking a larger dose or taking the medicine longer than recommended can increase your risk of dangerous side effects.
  • Do not use a nonprescription NSAID for longer than 10 days without talking to your doctor.

Reasons to stop taking NSAIDs

NSAIDs may delay healing. If you develop any of the following signs of infection, stop taking the medication:

  • An increase in pain
  • Skin that is hot to the touch around the injury or wound
  • Redness or red streaks extending from the injury or wound
  • Pus that continues to form in the wound
  • Fever with no other cause
  • Swollen glands above the injury or wound

NSAID risks

  • NSAIDs have the potential to increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, skin reactions, and serious stomach and intestinal bleeding. These risks are greater if you take NSAIDs at higher doses or for longer periods than recommended.
  • Aspirin, unlike other NSAIDs, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. It does carry the risks of serious stomach and intestinal bleeding as well as skin reactions.

Talk to your doctor about whether NSAIDs are right for you. People who are older than 65 or who have existing heart, stomach, kidney, liver, or intestinal disease are at higher risk for problems. For other people, the benefits may outweigh the risks.

Do not take NSAIDS if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any type of pain medicine.

If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breast-feeding, talk to your doctor before you use NSAIDs. It is especially important to avoid using NSAIDs during the last 3 months of pregnancy unless your doctor tells you to. They can cause problems with the baby or the delivery.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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