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ASK THE EXPERTS

Can taking aspirin help prevent COVID-19 strokes?

aspirin

Recent reports of blood clotting and severe strokes potentially being associated with coronavirus infection have people wondering if taking aspirin may be a viable preventative. Healthy Food Guide editor Jenny de Montalk asked University of Auckland public health physician Vanessa Selak and epidemiologist Rod Jackson for their thoughts on taking a daily dose of aspirin ‘just in case’.

Q Would taking a daily low-dose aspirin be advisable, to help prevent the chance of stroke in the event of COVID-19 infection?

A US reports of unusual blood clotting and severe stroke in a small number of patients with the novel coronavirus have been alarming for some, but self-medicating with daily aspirin is not recommended.

Aspirin can interfere with your blood’s clotting action, and a daily dose is often prescribed by doctors after a patient has had a heart attack or stroke.

However, according to Professor Jackson, the severe strokes reported in the US are very rare, in the scheme of things.

“This is a very rare event and any possible (unproven) benefit to a very small number of people will be less than the combined, small increased harm of bleeding that would occur if lots of people started taking aspirin,” he says.

Dr Selak is an expert on aspirin and wouldn’t recommend daily aspirin to prevent possible complications of COVID-19 for two reasons:

“First, there is no evidence of the benefits of using daily aspirin for COVID-19. Second, there is evidence that daily aspirin might cause bleeding, which can be dangerous in some cases. Therefore, aspirin should only be taken daily, if recommended by a doctor.”

The bottom line

There is no evidence, yet, that aspirin has any benefits for COVID-19, but there is evidence daily aspirin can, in some cases, cause dangerous bleeding. The incidence of stroke in COVID-19 patients is so small, the risks of taking aspirin are greater than any unproven benefit to the population.

First published: Apr 2020

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