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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.


Many painkillers -- including higher doses of NSAIDs -- are available by prescription. Since they are more powerful versions of over-the-counter NSAIDs, they often have the same or greater risks. Some examples are Daypro, Indocin, Lodine, Naprosyn, Relafen, and Voltaren.

Cox-2 inhibitors are a newer kind of NSAID. They were thought to have fewer stomach and intestinal side effects than standard NSAIDs, but they can still cause some of the same problems.

Recently, Cox-2 inhibitors and other prescription NSAIDs have been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. All of these drugs now carry a warning about this risk on their labeling information.

Narcotics are another type of prescription painkiller. Examples include OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. These drugs are only used in people with severe chronic pain. They don't generally pose a risk for people with asthma. The exception is for people having a severe asthma attack. In these people narcotics can lead to dangerously slow breathing. Narcotics do have other side effects, including constipation, fatigue, and a risk of addiction.

Reviewed on June 24, 2009

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