Aspirin is a common pain medication that is available over the counter without a prescription. It is a member of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory class of drugs which are also known as NSAIDs. Aspirin is one of the oldest pain medications used today with its discovery dating all the way back to 1763. Since its discovering it has been found to have more uses than just treating pain. Another common usage of aspirin is for the prevention of blood clots forming due to its blood thinning properties. Aspirin is also commonly used to reduce headaches and fevers. Because of the wide availability of aspirin and its prevalence in almost every household it is important to be aware of what an aspirin overdose looks like.
Acute vs Chronic Overdose
There are two different kinds of aspirin overdoses. An acute aspirin overdose happens when a large single dosage of aspirin is taken all at once. This is rarely fatal as long as the overdose is noticed and treated with the proper medical care or guidance in the proper amount of time. Chronic overdoses occur when aspirin is taken over a period of time. This kind of overdose happens as the levels of aspirin in the body gradually accumulate over time until they reach a toxic level. This is usually due to the kidneys not functioning properly and is more commonly observed in the elderly. Dehydration can also lead to a chronic overdose of aspirin. Chronic overdoses are much more fatal than acute overdoses resulting in a 25% fatality.
Symptoms of an aspirin overdose will most typically manifest as gastrointestinal pain. This can result in intense cramping or vomiting. Nausea is another indicator and symptom of a aspirin overdose. Chronic aspirin overdoses are also often accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing. Many will become confused during an aspirin overdose and may become incoherent. When an especially large aspirin overdoses occurs, fatigue is a common side effect. Dizziness may also accompany an overdose of aspirin. In the most extreme cases an overdose of aspirin will lead to seizures and sometimes even a coma.
The treatment of an aspirin overdose is largely dependent on the time when the aspirin was taken as well as how much was taken. In order to restore any lost fluids aspirin overdose patients are administered IV fluids. Administering fluids also help to remove the excess of aspirin in the blood stream from the body at a more rapid rate. To treat an aspirin overdose the patient is also given activated charcoal. The activated charcoal soaks up any aspirin remaining in the stomach which in turn keeps it out of the blood stream. Laxatives can also be administered to expel the activated charcoal along with any not wholly dissolved aspirin tablets still within the intestinal tract. Potassium salt and sodium bicarbonate can also be given through an IV to help speed up the rate at which the aspirin is removed from the blood stream. In extreme cases a respirator can also be used to assist in breathing.