A Primer on Painkillers

painkillers© Hemera / Thinkstock


Figuring out which over-the-counter pain reliever is the best one to use for your headache, fever, or muscle ache can be a real pain. Use this handy painkiller primer to help you navigate the drugstore shelves. (Remember though: when in doubt, always call your doctor!)


Common Brands: Tylenol

Class: analgesic (pain reliever), fever reducer

Best used for: pain not related to injury, fever

Advisories: Do not use acetaminophen to treat a fever higher than 103.1 for more than three days, or a fever that keeps coming back. Acetaminophen also should not be used regularly by people with anemia, liver disease, or kidney disease. High doses or regular, long-term use of acetaminophen can cause liver damage, especially if combined with alcohol.

Other considerations: Acetaminophen is easy on the stomach, and a great choice for children who need pain or fever relief.



Common Brands: Bayer, Excedrin

Class: analgesic, anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory

Best used for: muscle pain and fever in adults, headaches, mild itching, swelling and inflammation, arthritis, toothaches

Advisories: Use caution if you are taking blood-thinning medication or have a hangover. Do not take aspirin if you have asthma, a bleeding disorder, gout, hearing loss, kidney or liver problems, or ulcers.

Other considerations: Children and teenagers should not take aspirin because it’s associated with a rare disorder called Reye’s syndrome when taken by these groups.



Common Brands: Advil, Motrin

Class: analgesic, anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory, fever reducer

Best used for: pain, fever, inflammation, menstrual cramps

Advisories: Use caution if you have asthma or nasal polyps, a stomach or intestinal disorder, angioedema, an allergy to other anti-inflammatory medicines, liver or kidney disease, a blood-clotting disorder, ulcers, or heart failure. Do not take ibuprofen with alcohol, aspirin, or steroids.

Other considerations: Ibuprofen is less irritating to the stomach than aspirin for some people. It also does not cause ringing in the ears, like aspirin can.



Common Brands: Aleve

Class: anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory, fever reducer

Best used for: mild to moderate pain, fever, extreme inflammation

Advisories: Use caution if you are taking blood pressure medication, oral blood thinners, or anticoagulants. Caution is also advised if you have an aspirin allergy, asthma, a stomach disorder, or a blood-clotting disorder, or if you are pregnant (especially in your third trimester).

Other considerations: Naproxen sodium is less irritating to the gastrointestinal tract and is less likely to cause liver or kidney complications than other medications.

Plus: Can Pessimism Destroy Painkillers’ Effects?

Sources: costcoconnection.com, abcnews.go.com, eHow.com

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.