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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Safest Pain Relief Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medicines sold directly to a consumer without a prescription. They are classified OTC when they contain ingredients that are considered safe and effective to use without a physician's prescription. But not all OTC painkillers are the same. And there are literally hundreds on the market to choose from. So, which ones are safe?

It depends. The most common OTC pain relievers are Aspirin, Motrin, Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol, along with the generic versions sold under store brand names. Each contains substances that are categorized as either NSAIDs, which is anti-inflammatory, or Acetaminophen, which is good for fever reduction as well as pain. But here are the differences between the two.


NSAIDS contain ibuprofen or naproxen. Ibuprofen is found in Aspirin, Advil and Motrin, and naproxen is found in Aleve. They are good for pain due to arthritis, headaches, toothaches and other types of pain. They are considered anti-inflammatory which means they work by controlling pain due to inflammation. But side affects include anything from upset stomach and stomach bleeding to increasing blood pressure which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The FDA, however, did find that naproxen created less of a risk for heart attack and stroke than ibuprofen.


Acetaminophen is found in Tylenol and other products like Midol Complete, Excedrin or Nyquil. Acetaminophen is good for long-term pain due to arthritis, chronic back pain and headaches. It is also a good fever reducer. It has fewer side affects than NSAIDS products. However, overdosing or mixing Acetaminophen products can damage the liver. For example, if you are taking Tylenol for fever along with Nyquil, know that both of these products contain Acetaminophen and you can easily overdose and take too much.

The bottom line on OTC medication is to take them for the right reasons, take them only according to directions, use the child-specific version for small children, and don't mix medications. This is the best and safest way to use OTC pain relief medications. Even though they do not require a prescription, they are still medicines and should be used with caution and common sense.
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