Health & Fitness: Who can and can't take naproxen?

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a man and a woman standing in a kitchen: Find out who shouldn't take naproxen, who should see a doctor before buying it and when a lower dose or extra monitoring may be needed © Hanglein and Steets - Getty Images Find out who shouldn't take naproxen, who should see a doctor before buying it and when a lower dose or extra monitoring may be needed

Doctors prescribe naproxen for both adults and children. However if you're buying it without a prescription it's only suitable for adults and teenagers aged 16 years and over.

Who should not take naproxen?

Naproxen is not suitable for everyone. Do not take it if you:

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  • are allergic to any ingredient of the medicine (always check the packet for the inactive ingredients of the medicine if you know you have specific allergies).
  • have ever had an allergic reaction after taking aspirin or other NSAIDs such as diclofenac or ibuprofen (for example an asthma attack, itchy rash, nasal inflammation (rhinitis) or swelling of the lips, tongue and throat).
  • have an active peptic ulcer or bleeding in the gut; have had two or more episodes of this in the past; or if you've ever experienced bleeding or perforation in the gut as a result of taking an NSAID.
  • have severe heart failure, kidney failure or liver failure.
  • are taking any other NSAID painkillers, including ibuprofen, aspirin or COX-2 inhibitors such as celecoxib.
  • are in the last three months of pregnancy.
  • are trying for a baby. Naproxen is not recommended for women who are trying to get pregnant because it can temporarily reduce female fertility.

Who should get medical advice before taking naproxen?

Some people may need a lower dose of naproxen or extra monitoring from your doctor to minimise any risks. Make sure your doctor knows if you:

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  • are over 65 years old.
  • have a history of disorders affecting the stomach or intestines, such as ulceration or bleeding, or inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

Naproxen can sometimes cause serious side effects such as ulceration or bleeding in the gut, so if you're aged over 65 or have a history of gut problems your doctor will want to monitor you more closely if you're prescribed naproxen. They may also prescribe a medicine to protect your stomach. Problems are more likely with high doses and if you take naproxen for long periods of time. If you get any sign of bleeding from your stomach or bowels while taking naproxen, for example vomiting blood and/or passing black/tarry/bloodstained stools, you should stop taking it and consult your doctor immediately.

Who else should talk to their doctor before taking naproxen?

  • Women who started having period pain more than a year after their periods started, and who want to take naproxen for period pain.
  • People with heart failure.
  • People who suffer from heart disease such as angina or who have ever had a heart attack, stroke or mini-stroke (TIA).
  • People with poor blood circulation in the legs or feet (peripheral arterial disease).
  • People with raised levels of fats such as cholesterol in the blood (hyperlipidaemia).
  • People with diabetes.
  • Smokers.
  • People with high blood pressure (hypertension).

If you have risk factors for heart disease or stroke, such as those above, your doctor will need to assess the overall benefits and risks before deciding if naproxen is suitable to prescribe for you. This is because high doses of naproxen (more than 1000mg daily) and prolonged use may be associated with a small increase in the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

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  • People with blood clotting problems or taking anticoagulant medicines - because naproxen may increase your risk of bleeding.
  • People who are dehydrated.
  • People with liver or kidney problems - because naproxen can sometimes affect the kidneys and a lower dose or extra monitoring may be needed.
  • People with a history of asthma or allergies - because naproxen may trigger an asthma attack in some people.
  • People with diseases affecting connective tissue, eg systemic lupus erythematosus.

Can I take naproxen while pregnant or breastfeeding?

  • Not unless you have been advised to by your doctor.

Naproxen may increase the risk of miscarriage and malformations and should not be used during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy unless considered essential by your doctor. Naproxen must not be taken in the third trimester because it may delay labour, increase the length of labour and cause complications in the newborn baby.

Naproxen passes into breast milk and is not usually recommended for women who are breastfeeding unless considered essential by your doctor.

More information about naproxen

  • What is naproxen used for and how does it work?
  • How do I take naproxen and what is the dose?
  • What are the side effects of naproxen?
  • Can I take other medicines with naproxen?

Last updated: 23.07.2020

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