Avoid Taking Ibuprofen If You Have This Allergy

Aspirin allergies are quite common, with some studies suggesting that around 1% of people are either allergic or hypersensitive to this medication. Having conditions like asthma or nasal polyps can further increase your risk, according to a 2018 study in Respiratory Research.

If you are among those who are reactive to aspirin, you might experience allergy symptoms like hives, itchy skin, runny nose, red eyes, swelling, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or life-threatening anaphylaxis.

While it might seem logical to simply switch to another pain and fever reducer like ibuprofen (common brands include Motrin, Advil, and Midol), experts say this is not a good idea. Just like aspirin, ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that work by blocking pain- and inflammation-causing proteins called cyclooxygenase (COX). If you are allergic to aspirin, there is a chance that you will be allergic to ibuprofen too.

Diagnosis of aspirin and ibuprofen allergies is clinical

The diagnosis of an allergy to aspirin or ibuprofen is usually a clinical one. In other words, it is based on symptoms, which are usually easy to spot.

While many allergies have definitive tests such as skin tests or blood tests that can be used to detect their presence, no such tests exist for NSAID allergies. However, allergy specialists may sometimes ask patients to do an oral challenge, especially if there is good reason to think that the patient may not actually be allergic to NSAIDs. Needless to say, an oral challenge should only be performed in a hospital or clinic where the patient can be observed and quickly treated in the event of a severe allergic reaction.

Treatment involves avoiding NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen

If you have an aspirin allergy, your doctor or pharmacist will advise you to avoid aspirin as well as any other NSAIDs that you might be sensitive to, including ibuprofen. This means you will also have to be aware of any other products that might contain aspirin, such as Alka Selzer, Doan's, Kapopectate, Maalox, Pamprin, Pepto-Bismol, Sine-Off, or Vanquish. You'll also need to think about other over-the-counter NSAIDs such as naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) and prescription medications like celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), fenoprofen (Nalfon), indomethacin (Indocin), and ketorolac (Toradol).

An alternative to aspirin that is generally considered safe is acetaminophen (Tylenol). It relieves pain and reduces fever, but there is an important difference between aspirin and acetaminophen: acetaminophen is not an NSAID.

If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to aspirin, your doctor might also advise that you keep an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) with you at all times. This allows you to quickly inject the medication in the event that you begin to have a severe allergic reaction.