Should people with asthma avoid aspirin?

Dr Mark Porter / 04 August 2017

Dr Mark Porter explains why some people with asthma need to avoid aspirin and ibuprofen.



Q: Why are people with asthma advised to avoid aspirin or ibuprofen?  I have had mild asthma since a child and have always been given this advice, but was recently seen in A&E after injuring my shoulder in a fall. I was prescribed an anti-inflammatory despite telling the doctor that I had asthma.  Not only did it help my shoulder, it also seemed to have no effect on my breathing.

A: Most people with asthma can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, with impunity, but in around a third of cases the drugs can worsen their asthma.  I would imagine you are one of the lucky majority (hindsight is a wonderful thing).

If someone with asthma is sensitive to NSAIDs then they are likely to develop cough and wheeze within a couple of hours of taking the drugs, and in some cases the exacerbations can be severe enough to warrant medical intervention - although in most cases the reaction is more troublesome than life threatening.  

Paracetamol is generally a safer option in people with asthma, particularly children (it too can occasionally trigger breathing problems although this is comparatively unusual).

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.