How can I reduce the risk of side effects when taking OTC pain relievers?

Many kinds of medication containing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen are available over-the-counter (OTC), but each has side effects that a user must consider before beginning treatment.

Short-term, occasional use of acetaminophen usually does not result in side effects. However, taking more than the safe and recommended dose of this medication can result in overdose side effects, including:
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting
  • Appetite changes
  • Liver damage
Many people are able to take an occasional, low dose of NSAIDs without experiencing side effects. Taking high doses of NSAIDs, especially for a long period of time (10 days or more), increases the risk of side effects, which may include:
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Upset stomach and vomiting
  • Jitteriness
  • Sleepiness
  • Bloating and constipation
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers
  • Increased bleeding
  • Kidney, heart or liver trouble
  • Heart attack and stroke (rare)


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.