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Aspirin "Allergy" or Sensitivity

Aspirin (acetyl-salicylic acid or ASA) may cause allergy-type reactions in persons who develop this unusual sensitivity. Although this sensitivity is not a true allergy (see What is Allergy?), this idiosyncratic type reaction can be very serious - sometimes even life-threatening. Another type of idiosyncratic reaction (occurring infrequently in sensitive persons) is that caused by intravenous contrast dye used for CAT Scans. Those people who have both moderate to severe asthma and chronic sinusitis are more likely to be aspirin sensitive. The main types of reactions are:

  • SKIN REACTIONS- itching, rashes, hives, or swelling of extremities or mouth
  • RESPIRATORY / OCULAR - Acute or immediate: nasal congestion, itchy/watery eyes, swollen eyes, cough, difficulty breathing or wheezing (swelling of the inside of the throat and asthma attacks which can be mild to very severe). Chronic: nasal polyps, sinusitis (leading to loss of smell, cough, post-nasal drip), and worsening of chronic asthma.
  • CARDIOVASCULAR - in very rare cases cardiovascular collapse (anaphylactic-type of shock) has occurred.

Stomach pains due to aspirin are not allergic or idiosyncratic types of reactions, but are usually due to irritation of the stomach lining.

One very important point is that most NSAID's (or Non-steroidal anti-inflammartory drugs) cross-react with aspirin - meaning that they can cause the same types of reactions in aspirin sensitive people. These drugs are mostly used for arthritis and other painful disorders. Common NSAID's (not a complete list) include: Advil, Anaprox, Ansaid, Butazolidin, Clinoril, Dolobid, Feldene, Ibuprofen, Indocin, Motrin, Naproxyn, Nuprin, Orudis, Rufen, Tolectin, and Voltaren.

A drug commonly used for aches and pains is Acetaminophen (Tylenolâ„¢, e.g.) Acetaminophen, however, is very commonly safe in aspirin sensitive people when used at recommended doses. As with all medication decisions, you should discuss this with your doctor (you may want to ask the doctor about non-acetylated salicylates which are also mostly safe in ASA sensitive people.

ASPIRIN (acetyl salicylic acid or ASA) and NSAID's are found in many home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and prescription medications. Please check the list below. THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE LIST AS NEW PREPARATIONS ARE BEING ADDED ALL THE TIME. Look for ASA (aspirin) in medications for headaches, colds, coughs, allergies, sinus problems, arthritis, rheumatism (joint pain), menstrual cramps, stomach acidity, backache, or urinary pain. Please read all labels carefully, or ask the pharmacist before trying any medication. An over-the-counter medication label may say in small print "don't take this medicine if you are allergic to aspirin or NSAID's." Also, remember to tell your doctor, dentist, and nurse that you are sensitive to aspirin.

Artificial coloring, for example Tartrazine Yellow (FD&C No. 5), may rarely mimic aspirin sensitivity. This dye is present in many foods including alcoholic and soft drinks, candies, artificial orange juice (TANG), luncheon meats, preserves, jams, fruit gelatins, ice cream, colored baked goods, toothpaste, and mouth wash. Always read the labels on packaged foods and try to avoid those that contain this artificial coloring if you're sensitive to aspirin.

Tartrazine dyes are also present in some medicines including some antihistamine preparations used to treat allergies. Use only those medications prescribed by your doctor, and be suspicious of any colored pills if you develop an itch, rash, or stuffy nose after you start taking them.

MEDICATIONS CONTAINING ASPIRIN OR ASA-LIKE SUBSTANCE (NSAIDs)

(Again, please be aware that this is not a complete list.)

Advil
Alka-Seltzer
Alka-Seltzer Plus
A B C Compound
AC and C tabs, compounds
APC Tablets
Anacin
Anaprox
Anodynos
Ansaid
Arthralgen
Arthritis Pain Formula
Arthritis Strength BC powder
Arthropan
ASA and Compound
Ascriptin
Ascriptin A/D
Asperbuf
Aspergum
Aspirin and compounds
BC compounds
Bromo-Quinine
Bromo-Seltzer
Bufferin
Butazolidin
Cama
Chargers
Clinoril
Cogespirin
Cope
Coricidin
Coriforte
Cosprin
Cuprimine
Damason
Darvon compounds
Depen
Dia-Gesic
Dihydrocodeine Compound Tablets
Dolobid
Dolprin #3 tablets
Dristan
Easpirin
Ecotrin
Empirin Compoung
Equagesic
Excedrin
Duradyne
Empirin and compounds
Feldene
Fiorinal and compounds
Fiogesic
4 Way Cold Tablets
Hyco-Pap
Gemnisyn
Goody's Headache Powder
Haltram
Hyalex
Ibuprofen
Imuran
Indocin
Liquiprin tablets
Lodine
Measurin
Meclomen
Medipren
Mepro Compound tablets
Methocarbamol
Midol
Momentum
Motrin
Myochrysine
Nalfon
Naproxyn
Norgesic
Norwich aspirin
Novahistex with APC
Novahistine sinus tablets
Nuprin
Orudis
Oruvail
Oxycodone
Pabirin
Pediaprofen
Pepto-Bismol
Percodan compounds
Persisten
Penaphen compounds
Phenergan compound
Plaquenil
Ponstel
Pyroxte
Rheumatrex
Ridaura
Robaxisal family
Rufen
Saleto
Salflex
Sine-off
S K Oxycodone
S K 65 compound tablets
Solganal
Soma compounds
Stanback
St. Joseph Aspirin
Supac
Synalgos - DC
Talwin compound
Therapy Bayer
Tolectin 200
Trac-tabs
Trendar
Triaminicin
Trigesic
Urisinus
Vanquish
Verin
Voltaren
Zactrin
Zorpin

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