Buffered aspirin is aspirin with a coating of a buffering agent that will reduce the risk of stomach damage. Normal aspirin can concentrate in the walls of the stomach, leading to stomach bleeding and ulcers. To limit these undesirable side effects, patients may take buffered aspirin or aspirin with an enteric coating, with the goal of protecting the intestinal tract. It is still possible to experience gastrointestinal bleeds, and patients should stop taking the medication if they notice dark, tarry stools or severe stomach cramps.
Aspirin on its own is acidic and can act upon the stomach and intestines. With this kind of aspirin, the drug is mixed with an agent like calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide to facilitate passage through the stomach without collecting in the stomach walls. The aspirin will pass through to the intestines, where the body can start uptaking useful chemical compounds to address aches and pains. It will also reduce the blood's ability to clot, a side effect that may be desirable in some patients, such as people on aspirin therapy to prevent heart attacks.
The clear benefit of buffered aspirin is the lower risk of stomach damage, particularly in patients with sensitive stomachs and individuals who are taking the drug in the long term. The drawback is that it tends to be less effective, as the buffering agent blunts the effects of the aspirin. Patients may notice that it takes longer to work or doesn't provide complete relief for pain and irritation. It is important to take the drug as directed to avoid complications, and patients should not take more pills if the first dose does not work as desired.
Most drug stores sell buffered aspirin along with other aspirin products. It is generally only recommended for use in adults. With children, there is a risk of causing a complication called Reyes syndrome. Parents of children with headaches, inflammation, and joint pain can consult a nurse or pediatrician to get advice on the best medication to use to keep the child comfortable. The care provider will also have information on dosage, as it may be necessary to use a small dosage for a particularly young child.
Buffered aspirin has a long shelf life, and it can be a useful thing to keep in a first aid kit. Some companies make single dose blisterpacks, which can be convenient for small first aid kits where space may be limited, making it impractical to include a full bottle of aspirin.