Skip to content

    Asthma Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Everyday Pain Relief: Asthma

    Many common over-the-counter pain relief drugs can cause harmful side effects, such as breathing problems, for people with asthma. Here's what you need to know.
    By
    WebMD Feature

    If you have asthma, you most likely work hard to avoid triggers. You shut the windows when the air is thick with pollen. You steer clear of homes with pets. You banish smokers to your front porch.

    But did you know that a potentially serious asthma trigger might be sitting in your medicine cabinet right now?

    Recommended Related to Asthma

    Asthma in Children at School

    Being the parent of a child with asthma can be frightening. You may feel especially helpless when your son or daughter goes off to school. At home, you can control the environment to reduce the impact of asthma triggers and you know what to do in an emergency. But when your child is at school, you may feel as though your child's well-being is out of your control. Even so, there's a lot parents can do to help control asthma in children at school. It's key that you work closely with the school's staff...

    Read the Asthma in Children at School article > >

    The culprit is aspirin, that trusted wonder drug, along with other common over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers. These are medicines we use without thinking twice. But in about one in five people with asthma, these drugs can make symptoms worsen. They can even cause dangerous or even fatal reactions.

    "It happens a lot more than people realize," says Phillip E. Korenblat, MD, spokesman for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. "If you went to any ER right now, you'd be likely to see people with asthma who were there because of a bad reaction to these drugs."

    The problem doesn't end with OTC painkillers. In fact, many remedies for colds, sinus problems, and even indigestion contain the same potentially dangerous ingredients.

    So before you grab a bottle of pain reliever for that headache, you need to learn some dos and don'ts.

    How Do Pain-Relief Drugs Work?

    In a certain way, all pain is in your head. When we feel pain, it's the result of an electrical signal being sent from the nerves in a part of your body to your brain.

    But the whole process isn't electrical. When tissue is injured (by a sprained ankle, for instance), the cells release certain chemicals. These chemicals cause inflammation and amplify the electrical signal coming from the nerves. As a result, they increase the pain you feel.

    Painkillers work by blocking the effects of these pain chemicals. The problem is that you can't focus most pain relievers specifically on your headache or bad back. Instead, it travels through your whole body. This can cause some unexpected side effects.

    What Are the Risks for People with Asthma?

    If you have asthma, painkillers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be risky. They include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen, the active ingredients in medicines like Bufferin, Advil, and Aleve.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

    When Is Your Asthma Worse?

    When Is Your Asthma Worse?

    Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

    Start Now

    Today on WebMD

    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    5 common triggers.
    group jogging in park
    Should you avoid fitness activities?
     
    asthma inhaler
    Learn about your options.
    man feeling faint
    What’s the difference?
     
    Madison Wisconsin Capitol
    Slideshow
    woman wearing cpap mask
    Article
     
    red wine pouring into glass
    Slideshow
    Woman holding inhaler
    Quiz
     
    Man outdoors coughing
    Article
    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    Article
     
    10 Worst Asthma Cities
    Slideshow
    runner
    Article