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Aspirin and medications that may trigger asthma

Some medications can trigger asthma symptoms in some people, including the type of painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

If you are prescribed any medication that you think may be causing your asthma to worsen, discuss it with your doctor.

Aspirin and other painkillers. Approximately 10 to 20% of people with asthma have sensitivity to aspirin or a group of painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These drugs are frequently used to treat pain and reduce fevers. Asthma attacks caused by any of these medications can be severe and even fatal, so these drugs must be completely avoided in people who have known aspirin-sensitive asthma. Also, inform your doctor and pharmacist so that these medications are not recommended for you. Products with paracetamol are generally considered safe for people who have asthma. It is important that people with aspirin sensitivity read labels of all over-the-counter medications used to treat pain, colds and coughs, and fever. If you have any questions about whether a certain medication could trigger your asthma, seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist.

Aspirin sensitivity, asthma and nasal polyps. Some people with asthma cannot take aspirin or NSAIDs because of what’s known as Samter’s triad - a combination of asthma, an allergic reaction to aspirin, and nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are small growths that form from long-term inflammation of the lining of the nasal cavity. This aspirin sensitivity occurs in about 10% to 20% of people with asthma and 30% to 40% of those who have asthma and nasal polyps. Many people who are sensitive to aspirin and NSAIDs have nasal symptoms, such as a runny nose, postnasal drip, and congestion, along with asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Talk to your doctor about options other than aspirin and NSAIDs if you have this allergy.

Beta-blockers. Beta-blockers are commonly prescribed medications used to treat numerous conditions including heart conditions, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and, in eye drop form, glaucoma. Your doctor will determine the need for these medications will advise you about whether you can take a few trial doses to see if they affect your asthma. It is important that you inform your doctor, and any other health professionals who may need to prescribe these types of medications, that you have asthma. This includes eye specialists. Examples of beta-blockers are atenolol, propranolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, and sotalol.

ACE inhibitors. These medications treat heart disease and high blood pressure. They can cause coughs in about 10% of the patients who use them. This cough is not necessarily asthma, but it can be confused with asthma or, in the case of unstable airways, can actually trigger wheezing and chest tightness. If you are prescribed an ACE inhibitor and develop a cough, seek medical advice. Some ACE inhibitors are captopril, enalapril, lisinopril, perindopril, ramipril, and fosinopril.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 09, 2018

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