What is a salicylates level test?
This test measures the amount of salicylates in the blood. Salicylates are a type of drug found in many over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Aspirin is the most common type of salicylate. Popular brand name aspirins include Bayer and Ecotrin.
Aspirin and other salicylates are most often used to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. They also are effective in preventing excessive blood clotting, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. People at risk for these disorders may be advised to take baby aspirin or other low-dose aspirin daily to help prevent dangerous blood clots.
Even though it's called baby aspirin, it's not recommended for babies, older children, or teens. For these age groups, aspirin can cause a life-threatening disorder called Reye syndrome. But aspirin and other salicylates are usually safe and effective for adults when taken at the proper dose. However, if you take too much, it can cause a serious and sometimes fatal condition called salicylate or aspirin poisoning.
Other names: acetylsalicylic acid level test, salicylate serum test, aspirin level test
What is it used for?
A salicylates level test is most often used to:
- Help diagnose acute or gradual aspirin poisoning. Acute aspirin poisoning happens when you take much aspirin at once. Gradual poisoning happens when you take lower doses over a certain period of time.
- Monitor people taking prescription-strength aspirin for arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. The test can show whether you are taking enough to treat your disorder or are taking a harmful amount.
Why do I need a salicylates level test?
You may need this test if you have symptoms of acute or gradual aspirin poisoning.
Symptoms of acute aspirin poisoning usually happen three to eight hours after an overdose and may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Symptoms of gradual aspirin poisoning may take days or weeks to show up and may include:
What happens during a salicylates level test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
If you regularly take aspirin or other salicylate, you may need to stop taking it for at least four hours before your test. Your health care provider will let you know if there are any other special instructions to follow.
Are there any risks to a salicylates level test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
If your results show a high level of salicylates, you may need immediate treatment. If levels get too high, it can be fatal. The treatment will depend on the amount of overdose.If you're taking salicylates on a regular basis for medical reasons, your results may also show whether you are taking the right amount to treat your condition. It can also show if you are taking too much.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
Is there anything else I need to know about a salicylates level test?
A daily dose of low-dose or baby aspirin used to be recommended as a way to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke for many older adults. But daily aspirin use may cause bleeding in the stomach or brain. That is why it is no longer recommended for adults without heart disease risk factors.
Because heart disease is usually more dangerous than the complications from bleeding, it may still be recommended for those at high risk. Risk factors for heart disease include family history and previous heart attack or stroke.
Before you stop or start taking aspirin, be sure to talk with your health care provider.
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- DoveMed [Internet]. DoveMed; c2019. Salicylate Blood Test; [updated 2015 Oct 30; cited 2020 Mar 23]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.dovemed.com/common-procedures/procedures-laboratory/salicylate-blood-test
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- Mayo Clinic Laboratories [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1995–2020. Test ID: SALCA: Salicylate, Serum: Clinical and Interpretive; [cited 2020 Mar 18]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayocliniclabs.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/37061
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests; [cited 2020 Mar 23]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
- UF Health: University of Florida Health [Internet]. Gainesville (FL): University of Florida Health; c2020. Aspirin overdose: Overview; [updated 2020 Mar 23; cited 2020 Mar 23]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://ufhealth.org/aspirin-overdose
- University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2020. Health Encyclopedia: Salicylate (Blood); [cited 2020 Mar 23]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=salicylate_blood
The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.