Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to treat conditions such as pain, fever, inflammation of the joints, or heart disease. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) offers a unique program to evaluate and treat patients with aspirin and NSAID allergies.
What are NSAID allergies?
In some people, aspirin/NSAIDs have the potential to cause allergic reactions. These reactions may occur within minutes to a few hours of taking the medication, and include symptoms such as:
Itching or flushing
Swelling of the lips, tongue, or face
Chest tightness, cough, wheeze
Nasal congestion, runny nose
Eye watering or redness
Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)
The diagnosis of the different types of NSAID allergies can be challenging, and there are no skin tests or blood tests for diagnosis of aspirin/NSAID allergy. Some patients may react to only one specific NSAID, while others may react to the entire class of NSAIDs. It is therefore important for anyone with a suspected aspirin/NSAID allergy to avoid all medications that may contain an NSAID until evaluation with an allergy expert.
How We Can Help
Through testing and consultation, our team can help you understand whether you have a true drug allergy, and if so, which drugs are safe for you to take. Depending on your clinical history, you may be eligible for a supervised drug challenge under close monitoring in our dedicated outpatient clinic. During a drug challenge, we will give you small doses of aspirin or another NSAID in increasing amounts over the course of several hours, to ensure that you can tolerate a full dose without reactions. This allows us to identify patients who may be able to safely resume taking aspirin or other NSAIDs.
For patients who have a true aspirin or NSAID allergy, our team will also help you and your other doctors formulate a treatment plan should you require aspirin or other NSAIDs in the future.
What Sets Us Apart
Our Allergists diagnose and treat hundreds of patients per year with aspirin and NSAID allergies. We are also actively engaged in clinical research through our Aspirin/NSAID Hypersensitivity Registry. As a patient of the Aspirin/NSAID Allergy Clinic, you may choose to take part in our research program. This may involve additional tests such as collecting urine or blood samples. This will help us better understand the causes and risk factors for developing aspirin/NSAID allergies.
If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our team, please call the Allergy Clinic at (617) 732-9850 or fill out an online appointment request form.