The symptoms of aspirin overdose vary depending on the type of overdose the patient is experiencing, acute or chronic, though stomach pain, vomiting, and disorientation are among them. The easiest and most accurate way to identify an aspirin overdose is a blood test, and any treatment should be determined by a physician. Aspirin's over-the-counter availability leads many people to consider it a fairly harmless medicine, but an overdose can be fatal, so it is important to seek medical attention if an overdose is suspected.
An acute overdose happens when the patient ingests a large quantity of aspirin at one time. Typical symptoms of an acute overdose are stomach pain, nausea, and uncontrollable vomiting as the body attempts to rid itself of any unabsorbed aspirin. Despite its reputation as a mild drug, aspirin comes with recommended dosages on the container and medical professionals say those should be followed to avoid the risk of overdose.
Chronic aspirin overdose occurs when the patient takes too much aspirin consistently over an extended period of time. Symptoms of chronic aspirin use differ from the symptoms of acute overdose and are harder to attribute to a drug overdose. A patient taking aspirin more frequently or in higher-than-recommended doses is likely to become sleepy, feel dizzy and possibly be confused or disoriented.
Less common and more severe symptoms can occur in both types of overdose. These symptoms include accelerated heart rate, shallow breathing, dizziness, convulsions and, in rare occasions, death. Regardless of what type of overdose is suspected, it's critical to obtain emergency medical care as soon as possible.
The most common way to determine if a patient is suffering from symptoms of aspirin overdose is a blood test. Such a test measures the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. Blood tests are repeated frequently to determine if the patient is recovering from the overdose naturally or if treatment is required. Any treatment required for this condition needs to be determined by a medical professional. Treating this kind of overdose at home is a dangerous and potentially deadly thing to do.
Medical treatment can be as simple as waiting for the body to naturally process the aspirin. It can also include the ingestion of activated charcoal to absorb the aspirin or IV fluids to help flush the aspirin from the body. In extreme cases, dialysis may be used to filter the aspirin from the blood.
Preventing aspirin overdose is better than needing to treat the symptoms. Always follow the dosage guidelines listed on aspirin containers, and do not begin an aspirin regime without consulting a physician. Purchase aspirin containers with childproof caps and store aspirin — and all medication — out of the reach of children to prevent any type of drug overdose. Keep aspirin in its original container, not only to aid in preventing an overdose, but also so directions and dosage instructions can be referenced. Never give aspirin to children to treat pain, fever or a chronic condition unless they are under the care of a physician.