Not that many years ago, back when I
was a kid, choosing a nonprescription pain reliever was simple: You
have aspirin or aspirin. Things haven't
been so simple, though, since acetaminophen and ibuprofen climbed onto
pharmacy shelves. And recently, with the appearance of naproxen sodium,
they got even more complicated.
Which one's which and what are they good for? Basically, the four general
types of pain killer are about equally effective. But some do work
than others for certain problems, and their side effects differ significantly.
Here's what you should know about these medications, along with a few
examples of common brand names to help you in your shopping.
(Anacin, Ascriptin, Bufferin, Ecotrin, Empirin)
This is the most
economical form of relief for pain and inflammation, and it also
fever. Generic brands are widely available and are cheaper yet. Aspirin
should not be taken by people with aspirin allergy, asthma, bleeding
gout, or ulcers—or by those who are taking blood thinners.
Overuse can lead to upset stomach, bleeding in the digestive tract,
Children should avoid it because of Reyes syndrome, and women should
not take it during the last three months of pregnancy.
Ibuprofen (Advil, Ibuprin, Motrin IB, Nuprin)
Very similar to aspirin
in makeup and effects. But you might keep some around for your significant
other, because ibuprofen does seem to be more effective than aspirin
menstrual cramps. Side effects, too, are similar to those of aspirin,
with the exception that ibuprofen is not associated with Reyes syndrome.
Acetaminophen (Excedrin Aspirin Free, Panadol, Tylenol)
at relieving pain (headache, for example) but does not relieve inflammation
(arthritic joint pain, for example) or reduce fever. Used as directed,
acetaminophen has no side effects. It may, however, be more toxic
than the other medications discussed here, and alcohol enhances its
Very similar to ibuprofen in effects and side effects.
This one's a newcomer to the retail shelves, but it has been
in use as a prescription drug for some time. Its safety for use at any
time during pregnancy has not been determined.
are, of course, variations on the basic ingredients. Buffered tablets
claim to reduce stomach upset, as do enteric-coated pills. The latter
may be more effective, but they take longer to relieve pain.
The main thing to remember about any pain reliever is that it's for
temporary use. If the pain doesn't go away and stay away, your body
is sending a
message. See your doctor and deal with the problem, not just its symptoms.
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