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Aspirin is a medicine commonly used to relieve pain, reduce swelling and reduce a high temperature.

It also makes the blood less sticky so it is less likely to form a clot. In adults, aspirin is often given to people with heart problems because of this action.

Aspirin should not be given to children aged under 16 unless on the advice of a doctor.

This is because there is a very small risk that children can develop a condition called Reye’s syndrome if they are given aspirin when they have a viral illness. In many cases your doctor will advise that your child takes aspirin despite this risk, because the chance of developing a blood clot is greater than the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.

This information should be read in conjunction with any information provided by the manufacturer. Each person reacts differently to medicines so your child will not necessarily suffer every side effect mentioned. If you have any questions or concerns, please ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist or telephone one of the contact numbers below.

How is aspirin given?

Aspirin is available in many forms, but we usually use dispersible tablets that come in 75mg strength.

The dose should be taken once a day after food. If your child can swallow tablets, he or she can swallow them whole with water. If not, disperse the tablet(s) in a small amount of water and give it to your child to drink or use an oral syringe to squirt the dose gently into the side of your child’s mouth.

If your child needs a proportion of the tablet, disperse it in a specific volume of water (for instance 10mls) and then draw up the correct proportion of the liquid using the oral syringe provided. These instructions will be on the medicine label.

For example, if your child needs to take a 50mg dose each day:

  • disperse a 75mg tablet in 15mls of water
  • draw up 10mls of the liquid and give to your child
  • throw the rest of the liquid away

Who should not take aspirin (contraindications)?

People with the following conditions should discuss taking aspirin with their doctor:

  • pregnancy or potential pregnancy, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding
  • allergy to aspirin or its ingredients, salicylates or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • stomach problems, especially a history of gastro-intestinal bleeding
  • clotting disorder
  • asthma
  • G6PD deficiency

What are the side effects of aspirin?

  • Bleeding or bruising – You may notice that your child tends to bleed or bruise more easily than previously. This is due to the anti-clotting property of aspirin.
  • Bronchospasm, shortness of breath or wheezing – If this becomes worse after your child starts taking aspirin, please tell us. Some children are short of breath or wheezy because of their existing condition.
  • Stomach ache or ulcer – Aspirin can irritate the lining of the stomach. This can be helped by always taking the dose after food. If your child has serious stomach pains, please tell us.

If you are concerned about any of these side effects, please discuss them with your doctor.

Aspirin and other medicines

Some medicines can react with aspirin, making their effects stronger. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving your child any other medicines, including herbal or complementary medicines. The following are known to react with aspirin:

  • anti-coagulant medicines to prevent blood clots forming
  • diuretic tablets to reduce fluid in the body
  • other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medicines, such as ibuprofen
  • some anti-epileptic medicines

Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist before giving them to your child.

If your child is taking aspirin regularly, he or she can also take paracetamol to reduce pain and high temperatures when needed.

Important information about aspirin

  • Keep tablets in a safe place where children cannot reach them.
  • If your doctor decides to stop treatment with aspirin, return any unused tablets to the pharmacist. Do not flush them down the toilet or throw them away.
  • If you forget to give your child a dose, give it as soon as you remember. Do not give a double dose.
  • If your child vomits after taking the tablet, do not give a double dose.  

More information

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) switchboard: 020 7405 9200

  • Pharmacy Medicine Information: 020 7829 8608 (Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm)

Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: April 2012

Ref: 2012F0312 April 2012
Compiled by the Pharmacy department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group.

Please read this information in conjunction with any patient information leaflet provided by the manufacturer. However, please note that this information explains about the use of medicines in children and young people so may differ from the manufacturer’s information.

Each person reacts differently to medicines so your child will not necessarily suffer every side effect mentioned. This information does not constitute health or medical advice and will not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor. No liability can be taken as a result of using this information.