CPR First Aid

Can Ibuprofen Trigger Asthma Attacks?

Ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter medication for pain and inflammation but it can also trigger an allergic reaction and cause an asthma attack. Read more.

Ibuprofen is a common medication for pain relief, inflammation, and fever. Recent studies have shown that ibuprofen may also help reduce asthma symptoms in young children and adults. While this medication can be beneficial for some people with asthma, it also has some associated risks.

Can ibuprofen trigger asthma attacks? Let’s investigate.

Ibuprofen Overview

It is an active substance in many over-the-counter (OTC) pain and fever medications. It belongs to a class called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs along with Cox-2 inhibitors, naproxen, and others. Its common brand names are Nurofen, Advil, and other different generic names.

While it is accessible, medical professionals do not recommend it to those who have stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, asthma, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney problems.

It is an active substance in many over-the-counter (OTC) pain and fever medications. It belongs to a class called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs along with Cox-2 inhibitors, naproxen, and others. Its common brand names are Nurofen, Advil, and other different generic names.

How do NSAIDs Work in the Body?

NSAIDs work by inhibiting a protein called cyclooxygenase and producing prostaglandins, 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:

  • Headache
  • Toothache
  • Arthritis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat

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. You should talk to your doctor if you experience any side effects from ibuprofen.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that results in difficulty breathing. The airways of people with asthma are constantly 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.

A lot of people have it as childhood asthma while others develop it during their adult years.

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that results in difficulty breathing. The airways of people with asthma are constantly inflamed, which makes them more sensitive to triggers like allergens, pollutants, or even changes in the weather.

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, vary from person to person, and sometimes can be life-threatening.

Triggers of Asthma Attack in Adelaide

Asthma attacks are usually triggered by an irritant in the air you breathe. Common triggers include:

  • Allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or animal dander
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold or flu
  • Exercise
  • 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.

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

Severe Symptoms

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
  • Pale or blue colour on the lips, nails, or skin
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety or panic

If you have a severe asthma attack, it is vital 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 by medication and 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 increased asthma symptom 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

  1. NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. 
  2. They can also cause renal impairment. In some people, 
  3. NSAIDs can trigger an asthma attack. Therefore, speaking to a doctor before taking NSAIDs for asthma is essential.
  4. It may cause urticaria (hives) or an allergic reaction within a few minutes of ingestion

Ibuprofen Risks

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
  • it may trigger the symptoms of those who have aspirin-sensitive asthma
  • it may cause a severe reaction in those who have an aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD or ASA triad) such as those with nasal polyps

Mild to Severe Asthma Symptoms After Taking Ibuprofen

An allergic reaction usually develops within a few hours of taking the drug.

  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • 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, others may experience some possible side effects. If the person has asthma triggered by ibuprofen, the following should be considered alternatives.

  1. Paracetamol can be an alternative for children and adults.
  2. For acute or recent injuries, use ice packs.
  3. For chronic injuries, heat packs are better options.
  4. Exercise
  5. Chiropractic care or massage therapy
  6. Relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
  7. 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. Still, the first aider should take extra care in administering ibuprofen, especially to people with 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 minor daily injuries. However, it can also cause an allergic reaction in some people. Knowing what to do in cases like this is helpful and what alternative treatments can be used.

Paracetamol vs Ibuprofen

Aside from ibuprofen, other medicines such as paracetamol (known as acetaminophen ) also help manage mild to moderate pain . However, in comparison with how ibuprofen works by targeting pain signals, paracetamol works by interacting with the brain system to inhibit the perception of pain.

Paracetamol may cause liver damage as a possible side effect.

Paracetamol Brand Names

As mentioned above, Nurofen is the common brand name for ibuprofen. On the other hand, paracetamol in Australia has the following brand names :

  • Panadol
  • Herron Paracetamol
  • Panamax
  • Chemist Own
  • Dymadon

Generic chemist brands are also available in pharmacies.

Active Ingredients

Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in many popular brands such as Nurofen while paracetamol is found in Panadol, Lemsip Max, and others.

Recommended Dose

Refer to the brand’s instructions and a healthcare professional’s medical advice for the daily dose. Medicines have leaflets that contain disclaimers of dosage, use, precautions, adverse reactions, and other important information.

Usage

Paracetamol may be effective as a short-term pain reliever for the following.

  • Headache
  • Migraines
  • Muscular aches
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Backache

Some also take it for period pain.

Which is Better – Ibuprofen vs Paracetamol?

According to NIB, both analgesics shouldn’t be given to babies but are safe for children and adults. Paracetamol is effective in controlling fever and ibuprofen is better at reducing swelling. So, it is best to take a medicine that better suits your condition and read the labels.

NIB is an international health partner who works with Dr Hamish Black who spent years in emergency departments in Australia.

Do First Aiders Study About Drug Treatments?

Yes, 

CPR First Aid offers both online theory learning and hands-on practice. Experienced and fully qualified trainers teach first aid courses. 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.

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