Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Tylenol—Decoding over the counter pain medications
posted by Christopher Roller, Pharm-D | November 11, 2015
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are a huge part of our everyday life. From a mild tooth ache to cold and flu, there are many OTC products available that can help alleviate the aches and pains of daily living.
There are a few things to remember when picking an OTC pain reliever, and there are limits and risks for all of these medications.
Brand Tylenol, or the generic name acetaminophen, appears by itself under multiple names and also contributes its fever/pain reducing qualities in most combination cold/flu products. Recently, there have been changes in dosing guidelines for Tylenol (acetaminophen, APAP). While taking Tylenol or any Tylenol containing product, make sure you are keeping track of your total amount taken during the day. The maximum dose should not exceed a combined total 3000mg/day.
Ibuprofen comes in a variety of names such as Advil or Motrin. It is a great mild pain reliever and also good for reducing fever. Ibuprofen belongs to a family known as NSAIDS or “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.” These act in the body by inhibiting certain inflammatory activity. Some major things to remember with this family is watching overlapping NSAIDS. For example, a popular pain reliever Alieve (naproxen sodium) is also a NSAID. Aspirin has the same properties too. That means that combining ibuprofen, alieve and aspirin to kill a headache can have some major unforeseen side effects. Some of these include stomach upset and even bleeding ulcers. In rare cases, NSAIDs have been reported to increase your chance of fatal heart attack or stroke. Be careful with NSAIDs and take them with food to help lessen GI side effects.
Aspirin has been around since the late 1890s. It’s used to treat more than 50 ailments, and, according to The Guinness Book of World Records, it is the highest-selling drug of all time. Aspirin also has its quirks and warnings. Some of those include bleeding risk and chance of a rare disease called Reye’s syndrome for patients under the age of 18. Remember to take Aspirin with food to lessen GI side effects, and it should not be given to children under the age of 18.
Also, an 81mg aspirin is as effective for “thinning” the blood as a full strength 325mg tablet, so there isn’t a need to take a larger dose if you are using Aspirin for heart health. As stated above, combining aspirin and ibuprofen is not recommended and can increase your chance of adverse effects.
With all of these over the counter pain medications, it is important to speak with your doctor or local pharmacist on the possible side effects or drug interactions that can occur. Educate yourself on proper dosing and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
As a member of the Revere Health team, Christopher makes patient care his number one priority. He works with a team of specialists and professionals to provide patients the coordinated care they need and deserve. He can work with you to create a plan that helps you live better.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.