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Excedrin, Motrin, Tylenol, Asprin, Aleve and others...How to Choose the Right OTC Pain Reliever?

By April 28, 2009 - 12:35pm
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I am really confused on what type of OTC pain-reliever to take. Is there a way to know if I should/shouldn't take aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, (any others I don't know about?)

Are there certain symptoms that you would choose one over the other (muscle ache vs. headache, for example)


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EmpowHER Guest

My 17 year old daughter seems to be allergic to Excedrin, Advil & Motrin. It seems whenever she takes any of these within 2-3 hours her eyelids swell up and sometimes her lips will swell. What should she take for headaches? It seems that Tylenol is off the shelves for some reason. Any ideas?

October 12, 2011 - 12:11pm
EmpowHER Guest

I just want to add that ibuprofen can irritate your stomach. Because I have acid reflux issues, I tend to take acetaminophen instead when I have a headache, muscle cramps, etc.

April 28, 2009 - 1:45pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for your comment! It looks like the NSAIDs all can irritate the stomach, but the acetaminophen can cause liver damage if taken with too much quantity or frequency.

It's good there are choices for all of us!

I'd also like to mention that "children are not mini-adults", and the Children's Motrin and Children's Tylenol have active ingredients that are in MUCH less quantity than their adult-counterparts.

April 28, 2009 - 2:05pm

Here is some information regarding the different types of the most common OTC pain-relievers:

- NSAIDs (include ibuprofen [Motrin], naproxen [Aleve] and aspirin)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Relieve pain from muscle aches, headaches, toothaches, menstrual cramps:
- Acetaminophen

Reduce inflammation
- Only NSAIDs

How they work:
- NSAIDs relieve pain by reducing the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that cause pain.
- Acetaminophen works on the parts of the brain that receive the "pain messages." They are easier on the stomach, and are recommended more often for use by children.

This is a great article on Consumer Health and pain medications at the Mayo Clinic website, and discusses different types of pain medications, as well as their forms (capsule, gel, tablet) and other factors to consider (inactive ingredients), as well as the combination medications (Excedrin is a combination of acetaminophen, caffeine and other ingredients).

There are certain health conditions and risks associated with these OTC (over-the-counter) pain relievers, and you can read about them below:
-FDA Medication Guide for NSAIDs
-FDA Acetaminophen Health Bulletin

Lastly, the generic versions or store-brand names of all of these pain relievers are just as good as the brand names I provided above, but cost a lot less!

April 28, 2009 - 1:03pm
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