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What are the differences among common pain relievers?

Ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen and naproxen sodium are all good at relieving pain. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium are in a class of drugs called NSAIDs, which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs can relieve pain, inflammation, and in the case of aspirin can reduce fevers. These drugs can cause stomach and intestinal upset as well increase your risk of heart circulation problems because they increase your risk of bleeding. These drugs should not be given to children or teenagers because of these risks. Aspirin should not be given to children and teenagers with fever because of the increased risk of Reye's syndrome. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer, it does not relieve inflammation. Acetaminophen does not cause stomach or intestinal upset, and does not increase the risk of heart and circulation problems because it does not cause bleeding. Acetaminophen is safe for children and teenagers and does not increase the risk of Reye's syndrome as aspirin does. Acetaminophen is the best choice for relieving pain and reducing fevers because it has no side effects and is safe for chilrena and teenagers. You should not drink alcohol is excess with acetaminophen because it can increase your risk of liver damage. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking acetaminophen with over the counter allergy, cold and flu, and sleep aids because they may contain acetaminophen.

(This answer provided for NATA by Jeff Mangus, ATC, LAT.)

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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.