And when I've got a headache, I reach for aspirin and caffeine, sometimes with a little hit of acetaminophen besides. Today, when I popped open the aspirin packet, I got wondering about that faint vinegar-y smell that aspirin often has.

Magic stuff: even if it's kind of smelly.
Magic stuff: even if it's kind of smelly.Courtesy jypsygen

Turns out that's chemistry in action. And probably also lousy storage. (And, yes, I realize Yahoo! Answers is not a good source, but some additional poking around confirms that this is the correct explanation, and the best written one, too.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Shana's picture
Shana says:

I made aspirin in chemistry lab! It was fun!

Anyway...I didn't know that about caffeine and regular headaches. I get migraines sometimes, though, and I've been told to drink a bunch of coffee during onset (before my head starts to hurt). Supposedly the caffeine will prevent pain if you get it fast enough--it never seems to totally prevent it for me but it might lessen the impact.

posted on Wed, 07/14/2010 - 2:17pm
jasmine's picture
jasmine says:

why does an asprin have a strong smell? I also didn't know caffeine could cure a headche. i learn something new everyday.

posted on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 2:23pm
Shana's picture
Shana says:

If your asprin smells strongly of vinegar, throw it away and get new stuff. As mentioned in the article Liza referenced, the aspirin smells because the it is breaking down into its constituent parts: salicylic acid and acetic acid; acetic acid is the main smelly part of vinegar.

posted on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 3:36pm
kannan's picture
kannan says:

I am glad to know about the storage issues with aspirin. I too have got the whiff of vinegar-y smell with aspirin. Could you please advice me the correct way to store aspirin for a long time without it getting spoiled?

posted on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 12:54am

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