Ibuprofen is a common medication often used to treat pain, inflammation and fever. Recent studies have shown that ibuprofen may also be helpful in reducing asthma symptoms. While this medication can be beneficial for some people with asthma, it also has some risks associated with it.
An active substance in many over-the-counter (OTC) pain and fever medications. It belongs to a class called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.
How do NSAIDs Work in the Body?
NSAIDs work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, which are hormones that play a role in pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen is a less potent NSAID than some other drugs in its class, such as aspirin, but it also has a lower risk of gastrointestinal side effects. Ibuprofen can be used to treat pain and inflammation associated with many conditions, commonly there are:
- Menstrual cramps
- Muscle aches
Ibuprofen can also be used to reduce fever. Although ibuprofen is generally safe, it can cause side effects in some people. The most common side effects are gastrointestinal problems, such as heartburn, nausea, and diarrhoea. Ibuprofen can also cause allergic reactions in some people. If you experience any side effects from ibuprofen, you should talk to your doctor.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung condition that results in difficulties breathing. The airways of people with asthma are always inflamed, which makes them more sensitive to triggers like allergens, pollutants, or even changes in the weather.
Asthma is a common chronic disease in Australia, affecting around 1 in 9 people. It is estimated that more than 2 million Australians have asthma, including 1 in 6 children.
Causes of Asthma in Children and Adults
The exact cause of asthma is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genes and environmental factors. People with certain medical conditions, such as allergies, hay fever, or eczema, are more likely to develop asthma. Asthma may also be triggered by environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, or dust mites.
What Happens in an Asthma Attack?
When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles around the airways contract and the airways narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma attacks can range from mild to severe, can vary from person to person, and in some cases can be life-threatening.
Triggers of Asthma Attack in Adelaide
Asthma attacks are usually triggered by an irritant in the air that you breathe. Common triggers include:
- Allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or animal dander
- Respiratory infections, such as the common cold or flu
- Cold air
- Air pollution
- Strong emotions, such as laughter, anger, or crying
- Sulfites and preservatives added to some foods and beverages
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin
Signs and Symptoms of an Asthma Attack
Symptoms of a mild asthma attack may include a slight wheeze and chest tightness. A severe attack, on the other hand, can be life-threatening.
Mild Asthma Symptoms
The most common symptoms of asthma are:
- Wheezing: A whistling sound when you breathe
- Coughing: Especially at night or early in the morning
- Chest tightness: A feeling that it is hard to breathe
- Shortness of breath: Feeling out of breath with activities like walking upstairs
Symptoms of a more severe asthma attack may include:
- Coughing that is persistent and does not go away
- Wheezing that is constant and gets worse
- Shortness of breath that gets worse quickly
- Tightness in the chest that gets worse quickly
- The pale or blue colour of the lips, nails, or skin
- Anxiety or panic
If you are having a severe asthma attack, it is important to seek medical help immediately. Asthma attacks can be very dangerous, and can even be fatal. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed with medication and by avoiding triggers.
Potential Benefits of Ibuprofen in Asthma
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. Inhaled corticosteroids are the mainstay of treatment for asthma, but they can have side effects. NSAIDs like ibuprofen may help to reduce inflammation in the airways and improve asthma symptoms.
Ibuprofen may also help to reduce the risk of asthma exacerbations. An exacerbation is an increase in asthma symptoms that can lead to an asthma attack. NSAIDs like ibuprofen can help to reduce the risk of exacerbations by inhibiting the production of leukotrienes. Leukotrienes are inflammatory compounds that are involved in asthma pathogenesis.
Risks Associated with the Use of NSAIDs in Asthmatics
- NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
- They can also cause renal impairment. In some people,
- NSAIDs can trigger an asthma attack. Therefore, it is important to speak to a doctor before taking NSAIDs for asthma.
There is some evidence that suggests taking ibuprofen may worsen asthma symptoms. Medical News Today enumerated the following:
- a person is allergic to ibuprofen or another medicine
- can cause bronchospasm – airways narrow
- aspirin-induced asthma can occur with other NSAIDs – 20% of adults with asthma
Mild to Severe Asthma Symptoms After Taking Ibuprofen
An allergic reaction usually develops within a few hours of taking the drug.
- difficulty breathing
- tightness in the chest
- runny nose
- swelling in the nasal passages and sinuses
- skin rash
- hives on the face
Alternatives to Ibuprofen
Although antihistamines can reduce the risks of asthma attacks when taking Ibuprofen, there are still possible side effects others may experience. If the person has asthma triggered by ibuprofen, the following should be considered as alternatives.
- Paracetamol can be an alternative for children and adults.
- For acute or recent injuries, use ice packs.
- For chronic injuries, heat packs are better options.
- Chiropractic care or massage therapy
- Relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
- Acupuncture, etc.
Common Mild Emergencies that Involve Pain and Inflammation
Toothaches, stomachaches, headaches, arthritis flare-ups, menstrual cramps, sprains and many more may seem ordinary situations but the first aider should take extra care in administering ibuprofen, especially to people who have a history of allergic reactions to medications.
Causes of Fever
Another symptom where ibuprofen is commonly used is fever. Fever can be a sign of infections, inflammations, autoimmune disorders, and other health problems such as cancer.
The bottom line is that ibuprofen is a common painkiller and OTC remedy for daily minor injuries. However, it can also cause an allergic reaction in some people. It is helpful to know what to do in cases like this and what alternative treatments can be used.
Do First Aiders Study About Drug Treatments?
Yes, first aiders are required to study drug treatments as part of their training. This is because they may need to administer medication to patients in emergency situations. First aiders must be familiar with the different types of drugs that are available and how they work. They also need to know how to properly administer the medication, depending on the patient’s condition. First aiders must be able to assess the patient’s condition and decide if medication is necessary. They also need to know when to call for additional medical help.
CPR First Aid offers both online theory learning and hands-on practice. First aid courses are taught by experienced and fully qualified trainers. Reach out to us for your inquiries and learn more about asthma attack first aid at Level 1/174 Gilles St, Adelaide 5000 or our course list available across Australia.