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Aspirin - not always the best thing for a headache.

Considering the annual tonnage of aspirin consumed in this country, it is a remarkably safe drug. It is also an incredibly versatile drug, as the next article will demonstrate. However, as one prominent citizen recently found out, "one man's meat may be another man's poison"--or even his own.

Several months ago, while traveling in Holland, the eminent television minister, Dr. Robert Schuller, struck his head while getting out of a car. Although Dr. Schuller showed no evident serious injury, he did develop a headache, for which he took four aspirin tables. Not long after, he was rushed to a hospital in a coma.

The problem was a subdural hematoma--a form of intracranial bleeding that may result from a blow to the head, without evidence of external injury. The bleeding is not within the brain itself; rather, it occurs in the space between the brain and its tough lining (the dura). As a result, a large amount of blood can slowly accumulate before symptoms are noticeable--sometimes even days before a coma develops.

In Dr. Schuller's case, however, the anticlotting effect of the aspirin greatly intesified the bleeding, and he rapidly lapsed into unconsciousness. Prompt medical attention, in which doctors removed the blood from the intracranial space, saved his life.

A blow to the head in small children and the elderly, who are not as likely to notice the onset of untoward symptoms as would a younger adult, requires close observation. If the patient shows little or no evidence of external injury, those at home should keep the victim under careful surveillance for at least 24 to 48 hours. This should include rousing the injured at hourly intervals during the night to see if he or she awakens easily and otherwise responds to normal stimulation. If arousal is difficult, aid should be summoned promptly.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Dec 1, 1991
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