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Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Care Instructions


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) relieve pain and fever. You also can use them to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Some examples of over-the-counter NSAIDs are:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
  • Naproxen (Aleve).

Aspirin (Anacin, Entrophen) is also an NSAID. But it doesn't work the same way as these other NSAIDs.

Some examples of prescription NSAIDs are:

  • Diclofenac.
  • Indomethacin.
  • Piroxicam.

Take NSAIDS exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. If you are taking over-the-counter medicine, read and follow all instructions on the label.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What should you know about NSAIDs?

  • Do not use an over-the-counter NSAID for longer than 10 days. Talk to your doctor first.
  • The most common side effects from NSAIDs are stomach aches, heartburn, and nausea. NSAIDs may irritate the stomach lining. If the medicine upsets your stomach, you can try taking it with food. But if that doesn't help, talk with your doctor to make sure it's not a more serious problem, such as a stomach ulcer or bleeding in the stomach or intestines.
  • Using NSAIDs may:
    • Lead to high blood pressure.
    • Make symptoms of heart failure worse.
    • Raise the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, and skin reactions.
  • Your risks are greater if you take NSAIDs at higher doses or for longer than the label says. People who are older than 65 or who have heart, stomach, or intestinal disease have a higher risk for problems.


Aspirin is not like other NSAIDs. It can help people who are at high risk for heart attack or stroke. But taking aspirin isn't right for everyone, because it can cause serious bleeding.

Talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin every day. You and your doctor can decide if aspirin is a good choice for you based on your risk of a heart attack or stroke and your risk of serious bleeding. Unless you have a high risk of a heart attack or stroke, the benefits of aspirin probably won't outweigh the risk of bleeding.

  • If you use other NSAIDs a lot, aspirin may not work as well to prevent heart attack and stroke.
  • If you take aspirin every day for your heart, talk with your doctor before you take other NSAIDs.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.