Physical pain affects each of us at one time or another in our lives. It’s in those times that we realize what a gift our good health is, and we do what we can to ease the discomfort we’re feeling, often with pills, drugs, and pharmaceutical medicine.

NSAID is an abbreviation for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These are frequently used to alleviate inflammation and pain. 

Ibuprofen is a NSAID and is commonly taken for headaches, menstrual pain, arthritic pain, sprains and strains, and cold and flu symptoms. (1)

Ibuprofen is not suitable for everyone and can sometimes cause troublesome side effects. Ibuprofen has well-known adverse effects, ultimately affecting the gastric mucosa, renal system, cardiovascular system, hepatic system, and hematologic system. (6)

Startling information revealed in research from 2017 shows that taking Ibuprofen during a cold could triple your risk of having a heart attack. This is serious news, and definitely something to be aware of when it comes to heart health. (3, 9)

NSAIDs and Colds – Information Gleaned From The Study

The 2017 study from the National Taiwan University Hospital was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. (3)

Researchers looked at data from nearly 10,000 hospitalized patients. They found the risk of having a heart attack if a patient had been given NSAIDs during an acute respiratory infection was 3.4 times higher than those who hadn’t. The risk more than doubled to 7.2 times higher if the NSAIDs were given intravenously. (3)

The study also revealed that although Ibuprofen was the only parenteral (intravenous) NSAID approved for fever relief by the US FDA, there were several other NSAIDs that are available in parenteral forms, such as ketorolac and diclofenac. (3)

You may be wondering what constitutes an NSAID pain reliever. Three commonly used NSAID drugs are Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Motrin), and Naproxen (Aleve). There are also NSAIDs to relieve arthritis pain such as celecoxib (Celebrex). These study results are observational, but because NSAIDs are commonly used during acute respiratory infection episodes, we all need to be careful. (3)

Effects Of A Heart Attack 

Symptoms of a heart attack can include chest pain where the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object. The pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms, and back. (2)

Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, sweating, shortness of breath, feeling sick (nausea) or being sick, an overwhelming sense of anxiety, and coughing or wheezing are other signs or symptoms.

Arrhythmias or abnormal heartbeats can develop after a heart attack as a result of damage to the heart muscles. Damaged muscles disrupt electrical signals that control the heart. (7)

If you have had a heart attack, you are at higher risk of ongoing heart problems. These can occur while you are active or at rest, and include:

  • Chest pain (angina).
  • Tightness or pressure in your arms, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting.
  • Pale, sweaty skin.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Swelling or pain in your legs.
  • Sudden fatigue. (8)

Causes Of Heart Attacks, Including Taking Ibuprofen 

Heart Attacks can be contributed to:

  1. A high-fat diet
  2. Diabetes
  3. High cholesterol
  4. High blood pressure (hypertension)
  5. Being overweight or obese
  6. Smoking
  7. Lack of oxygen in the blood
  8. Drug misuse (7)

Drug misuse can of course include taking non-prescription Ibuprofen or any other over-the-counter medication that is taken without physician guidance. 

What Can I Take Instead Of Ibuprofen?

According to package inserts, NSAIDs are contraindicated in patients:

  1. With NSAID hypersensitivity or salicylate hypersensitivity, as well as in patients who have experienced an allergic reaction (urticaria, asthma, etc.) after taking NSAIDs 
  2. Who have undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgery
  3. During the third trimester of pregnancy (6)

Luckily, armed with this information here are precautions you can take when it comes to relieving pain that could be safer alternatives to Ibuprofen during acute respiratory infections. They include:

  • Acetaminophen – if you are in pain, try acetaminophen first, as it doesn’t appear to increase your risk for heart attacks.
  • Low Dose – if you need to take an Ibuprofen, take the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time possible.
  • Take Only As Directed – make sure you read the directions on your medication and do not exceed the dosage listed.
  • Talk With Your Doctor – before using Ibuprofen peak with your family doctor. This is especially important if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.
  • If you experience sudden weakness in one part or side of your body, slurred speech, chest pain, or trouble breathing, stop taking Ibuprofen immediately and seek medical help. These are serious symptoms. (11)

Ibuprofen should indeed not be used by people with any serious underlying health problems except with close monitoring by a healthcare provider. 

You can also go down a more natural route instead of taking non-prescription Ibuprofen and try some time-old, or ancient remedies to relieve your cold symptoms. 

Trying natural products such as herbs, vitamins, and minerals to prevent or treat illnesses can be an alternative for your health. It’s always helpful to stock up on:

  • Zinc – which helps to shorten the length of a cold.
  • Vitamin C – linked to small improvements in cold symptoms.
  • Echinacea – although not proven to help, is popular for preventing colds and flus, with no side effects.
  • Probiotics – may help to prevent upper respiratory tract infections. (10)

Information For Your Heart Is In Your Own Hands

The information contained in this article on the association of NSAID use during colds and flu, and the risk of acute myocardial infarction or a heart attack has been reported in other clinical trials. (3,4,5)

The purpose of this article is to highlight that next time you have the symptoms of a cold or a flu you may want to think twice on the effects of taking Ibuprofen – for your heart health.

At the end of the day we should all practice our own heart health and all-round self-care, embracing wellness at every stage in our lives, not just when we experience discomfort, symptoms, colds, and flu, or any pain. 

That’s why we’ve created a downloadable resource that you can use to help communicate better with your doctor.  Download the Physician Checklist, to help you optimize your health visits and reach your health goals.


  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nsaids/
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/ 
  3. https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/215/4/503/2965358?login=true 
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18624902/ 
  5. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2008.01991.x 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547742/ 
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/causes/ 
  8. https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-recovering-and-staying-well/ 
  9. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682159.html 
  10. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/tips-natural-products-for-the-flu-and-colds-what-does-the-science-say 
  11. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fda-strengthens-warning-that-nsaids-increase-heart-attack-and-stroke-risk-201507138138 

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