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Guide to Over-The-Counter Pain Killers

Over-the-counter drug guideThe aches and pains of life are inevitable. That being said, every ‘ouch’ doesn’t warrant a trip to the doctor. So, how do you decipher between all the over-the-counter painkillers on the market? Here’s the facts on three of the most popular drugs.


History: Over 2500 years ago, ancients found that eating willow tree bark helped alleviate pain. In the 19th century, chemists discovered that salicin was the chemical behind the pain relief. That discovery led to the lab-created (and easier to digest) acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin.

How It Works: Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that suppresses the production of hormone-like molecules called prostaglandins that play an important role in inflammation.

Common Brands: Bayer, Bufferin

Benefits: Aspirin can help treat pain, fever, arthritis, and inflammation. Some people take a daily dose to reduce the risk of heart attack.

Problems: The inflammatory prostaglandins that aspirin suppresses also help protect the stomach lining. Because of the drugs affect on the stomach and blood, people with certain conditions should avoid taking it. Also, in feverish children, aspirin has been linked to Reye’s disease–a potentially fatal brain and liver disease. So, children under 19 should avoid aspirin unless specifically prescribed by a doctor.


History: Ibuprofen was originally developed as an arthritis treatment. It was discovered as a form of propionic acid in 1961 by chemists at the Boots Company in the United Kingdom, now known as Boots UK Limited–a continued leader in pharmaceutical development.

How It Works: Like aspirin, ibuprofen is a NSAID that suppresses prostaglandin production.

Common Brands: Advil, Motrin

Benefits: Again, like aspirin, ibuprofen is great for general pain, fever, arthritis and inflammation. It does, however, get better results in lower doses than aspirin. And it has never been linked to Reye’s disease, so it is safe for children.

Problems: Though it’s gentler than aspirin, ibuprofen should still be avoided by people with ulcers, bleeding problems or kidney issues.


History: First made from the coal tar also found in cigarettes, the FDA patent for acetaminophen went through in 1951. At the time, aspirin was the OTC market king, but there was demand for a product safe enough for children. The ubiquitous Tylenol brand launched in 1955 and marketed itself as just that.

How It Works: Acetaminophen works in the same way that the above NSAIDs do where it concerns fever and pain relief. However, because the drug works more effectively in the central nervous system than in peripheral tissue, it does not have the same anti-inflammatory properties.

Common Brands: Tylenol

Benefits: Classic ads for acetaminophen from decades bygone simply state: “Fever Reducer. Pain Reliever.” That covers a lot. But, acetaminophen is also not a NSAID, easing trauma to people with stomach problems. The drug is also safer for children.

Problems: Since the drug is metabolized in the liver, it can have traumatic effects if taken with a lot of alcohol.

Next time you reach for the medicine cabinet make sure you’re picking the most effective pills to help you tackle your day pain-free.

Disclaimer: This guide was not written by a medical professional. Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter pain treatments.

1 Comment to “Guide to Over-The-Counter Pain Killers”

  1. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. …

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