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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a type of medication widely used to treat pain, inflammation and fever. Common types of NSAIDs include aspirin and ibuprofen. NSAIDs work by blocking the enzymes in our body that are responsible for causing pain and inflammation. Most are available over the counter at your pharmacy and do not require a prescription.


Common conditions that NSAIDs are used for include headaches, arthritic pain, premenstrual cramping, tooth aches or symptoms of cold and flu. When using an NSAID it is advisable to take the lowest dose necessary for the shortest time period.  


Side effects  

Many people believe that drugs sold over the counter are completely safe, however, NSAIDs may cause side effects in some people. Common side effects may include:

  • Nausea,  
  • Diarrhoea,  
  • Heart burn,  
  • Stomach pain.      


Long term use of NSAIDs may also increase the risk of stomach ulcers and internal bleeding. It is advisable to not smoke or drink large amounts of alcohol whilst using NSAIDs in order to decrease this risk.  


It is important to follow the instructions and dosage for your NSAID carefully. It is possible to exceed the dose and experience mild to moderate side effects including drowsiness, stomach upset and possible seizures or loss of consciousness. If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of an overdose, call emergency services immediately.      


When to avoid  

It is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women to use NSAIDs unless under the direction of their doctor or health care professional. Also, children under the age of 16 are advised to avoid NSAIDs due to a small risk of Reye’s syndrome that can cause brain and kidney damage.  


If you are taking blood pressure medication, blood thinning medication, or have a history of liver, kidney or heart disease, it is best to talk to your doctor before using NSAIDs.      



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.