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Salicylates Level

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. These can include:

  • Aspirin, which is a common pain reliever
  • Bismuth subsalicylate, which is used to treat diarrhea, heartburn, and upset stomach
  • Magnesium salicylate, which is used to treat pain
  • Methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen), which is which is most often found in creams to treat muscle pain

Aspirin is the most common type of salicylate. It is used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation. Popular brand name aspirins include Bayer and Ecotrin. Some other medicines may also contain aspirin, including some antacids, pain relievers, and cough and cold medicines.

Aspirin and other salicylates affect blood clotting. A blood clot is a mass of blood that forms when platelets, proteins, and cells in the blood stick together. Blood clotting is an important process that prevents you from losing too much blood when you get injured. But too much blood clotting can cause a heart attack or stroke. People at risk for blood clots may be advised to take baby aspirin or other low-dose aspirin every day to help prevent dangerous blood clots.

Even though it's called baby aspirin, it should not be given to children or teens unless your health care provider tells you to. For these age groups, taking aspirin when they have a viral infection can cause a life-threatening disorder called Reye syndrome.

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 aspirin or salicylate or poisoning. Check with your provider before taking medicines containing salicylates for more than ten days.

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 or other salicylate poisoning:
    • Acute poisoning happens when you take too much aspirin other salicylate at once.
    • Gradual, or chronic, poisoning happens when you take lower doses over a long 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 it's possible that you have acute poisoning from aspirin or other salicylates. The symptoms of acute poisoning usually happen three to eight hours after an overdose. The symptoms can vary, based on the amount of salicylates in your blood and whether you are an adult, teenager, or child. But the symptoms often include:

You may also need this test if you have symptoms of gradual poisoning from aspirin or other salicylates. The symptoms may take days or weeks to show up and can include:

If you think you or your child has taken too much aspirin or other salicylates, call your provider right away. If you notice symptoms of aspirin poisoning, call 911 or the poison control center, or go to the nearest emergency room. Early treatment can prevent damage to your organs or death.

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 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 have questions about your results, talk to your provider. To understand the results of a salicylate test, your provider may consider your symptoms, medical history, and the results of other blood tests.

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 a previous heart attack or stroke.

Before you stop or start taking aspirin, be sure to talk with your provider.


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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.