Aspirin is a medicine that relieves pain and reduces fever.
Aspirin is used to relieve many kinds of minor aches and pains—headaches, toothaches, muscle pain, menstrual cramps, the joint pain from arthritis, and aches associated with colds and flu. Some people take aspirin daily to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, or other heart problems.
Aspirin—also known as acetylsalicylic acid—is sold over the counter and comes in many forms, from the familiar white tablets to chewing gum and rectal suppositories. Coated, chewable, buffered, and extended release forms are available. Many other over-the-counter medicine contain aspirin. Alka-Seltzer Original Effervescent Antacid Pain Reliever, for example, contains aspirin for pain relief and sodium bicarbonate to relieve acid indigestion, heartburn, and sour stomach.
Aspirin belongs to a group of drugs called salicylates. Other members of this group include sodium salicylate, choline salicylate, and magnesium salicylate. These drugs are more expensive and no more effective than aspirin. However, they are a little easier on the stomach. Aspirin is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and provides quick and relatively long-lasting pain relief. Aspirin also reduces inflammation. Researchers believe these effects come about because aspirin blocks the production of pain-producing chemicals called prostaglandins.
In addition to relieving pain and reducing inflammation, aspirin also lowers fever by acting on the part of the brain that regulates temperature. The brain then signals the blood vessels to widen, which allows heat to leave the body more quickly.
Nancy Ross-Flanigan, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,