Alka-Seltzer XS is a medication used for the treatment of mild to moderate pain, including headache, migraine, back pain, rheumatic pains, muscle aches and pains, period pains, toothaches, sore throat, fever, and cold symptoms.
It contains a combination of aspirin, paracetamol, and caffeine. The medication comes as effervescent tablets that dissolve in water. It can take a couple of minutes till it is fully dissolved.
Alka-Seltzer XS is suitable for adults and children aged 16 and above.
The recommended dose is two tablets every four to six hours, with a maximum of eight tablets in 24 hours.
It’s best that it’s taken with or after food, as aspirin can cause stomach irritation.
Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) from the same family as ibuprofen. Because of this, you should make sure you aren’t taking aspirin alongside other anti-inflammatories, as this can upset your stomach, and also increase the risk of harmful effects due to overdose.
Aspirin’s anti-inflammatory effect works by blocking the body’s production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which are released in response to illness or injury. Prostaglandins can cause pain and inflammation to alert the body that it is unwell. By stopping prostaglandin production, the medication can help stop pain, inflammation, and fever.
Paracetamol similarly works by reducing the production of prostaglandins. It uses a different mechanism of action to help stop the pain signals and bring down a fever.
Caffeine, whilst it is a stimulant, is used to help speed up your pain relief by sensitising your body to the aspirin and paracetamol present in Alka-Seltzer XS. How much difference this makes is up for scientific debate, although many people swear by the difference they feel it makes.
Alka-Seltzer XS should be avoided by anyone under the age of 16 due to a risk of an adverse reaction called Reyes syndrome, which can be very fatal. You should also of course avoid Alka-Seltzer XS if you have previously had an allergic reaction to the medication or any of the other ingredients.
If you have severe kidney or liver problems, or if you have other medications or medical conditions where you would normally discuss with your doctor or pharmacist before starting something new – avoid starting Alka-Seltzer XS at home before discussion.
If you are asthmatic and haven’t had anti-inflammatories before, they can sometimes cause an acute asthma attack. You should avoid Alka-Seltzer XS if you are breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant, or are already pregnant unless advised by your midwife or doctor. If you have a known stomach ulcer or inflammatory bowel disease, you should avoid taking Alka-Seltzer XS unless advised by your doctor.
Common side effects include headaches, feeling dizzy, nausea, and vomiting. This is often because excess amounts of aspirin in the brain can bind to other receptors causing undesired effects.
Indigestion and heartburn are other common side effects of all anti-inflammatories, as they can irritate the lining of the stomach. If they are taken in the long term without any medication to protect the stomach from excess acid, they can cause stomach ulcers.
If you have started aspirin and your doctor doesn’t know, you should speak to them to see if they would recommend stomach protection medication whilst taking aspirin. High doses of caffeine can cause tremors and palpitations. As with any medication, seek urgent medical advice if any severe symptoms develop, including those of a severe allergic reaction such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or swelling of the tongue, mouth, lips, face, or throat.
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