What you should know about the potential risks of using over-the-counter painkillers.

[A woman in bed with a cold]

Taking ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help relieve cold or flu symptoms may seem harmless, but new research suggests otherwise. It could increase the risk of heart attack.

Study co-author Dr. Cheng-Chung Fang, of the National Taiwan University Hospital, and colleagues recently reported their findings in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are medications that help to alleviate pain by reducing inflammation.

Ibuprofen and aspirin are examples of two commonly used NSAIDs, and many individuals use these medications to help relieve some of the symptoms of a cold, flu, and other acute respiratory infections (ARIs), such as fever and headache.

According to Dr. Fang and colleagues, previous research has suggested a link between the use of NSAIDs, ARIs, and an increased risk of heart attack.

However, the team notes that there have been no studies assessing whether NSAID use during ARI episodes is associated with a greater heart attack risk.

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