Over The Counter Pain Medication: How To Choose The Right Drugs
With the recent front-page news about the possible hazards of pain medications, you may be taking a look at your over-the-counter (or OTC) pain medications with a wary eye. While all drugs, including those you don't need a prescription for, can be dangerous, some basic knowledge can help you avoid the pitfalls for the pain relief you need.
Types of OTC pain medication:
The pain-relief aisle of any drug store can make it seem like there's an infinite number of pain-relief medications. But there are really only three types. Each type works in a different way and can cause different types of problems.
Aspirin: Aspirin blocks the activity of pain hormones called prostaglandins, which would otherwise send pain information to the brain. In addition, by blocking prostaglandins you reduce the pain and discomfort of inflammation (swelling and heat indicating immune function).
Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is found in drugs like Tylenol, as well as some generic OTC medications and in prescription pain-relief products. Acetaminophen travels through your bloodstream to the brain, reducing pain-related brain activity and fever. Because it doesn't work through the hormonal system, it doesn't do as good a job of reducing swelling and inflammation as the other two types of pain medication.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories: These are sometimes called NSAIDs (pronounced N-Saidz). This isn't a single chemical, like acetaminophen, but a group of chemicals including ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen, all of which block the production of prostaglandins, and thus pain and swelling. A number of NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, including brands like Aleve, Ibuprofen (generic) and Motrin; some newer NSAIDs, like Celebrex and Vioxx , need a prescription.
How To Take Aspirin Safely
In addition to blocking pain signals, aspirin blocks the production of blood clots. Strokes can be caused by blood clots blocking the brain's blood vessels and aspirin reduces the chance that such clots will form, so physicians will sometimes recommend a low dose of daily aspirin to prevent strokes in high-risk patients.
However, this also means that it's harder to stop bleeding if you're taking aspirin. People who are already on blood thinners (like Coumadin) should not take. Similarly, pregnant women have an increased risk of bleeding if they take aspirin, so if you need pain relief while pregnant, speak with your healthcare worker for a better options.
Aspirin can quickly lead to ulcer formation and potentially-dangerous gastric (stomach) bleeding. Enteric coating reduces the likelihood of harm, but even so, aspirin should not be taken for long periods of time without consulting a physician.
Some people are allergic to aspirin, and may experience a variety of symptoms (potentially serious) on taking it. If you're allergic to aspirin, you shouldn't take aspirin or NSAIDs without consulting a physician.
Lastly, children and teens with chicken pox, flu, or other viral illness should not be given aspirin (even children's aspirin) without first consulting a physician, as the combination of certain illnesses and aspirin can lead to a potentially fatal complication called Reye's syndrome.
How To Take Acetaminophen Safely:
Acetaminophen, taken in high doses or over long periods of time, can cause liver damage and, eventually, liver failure. If you think you may have taken too much, call a healthcare provider or poison control center right away.
Alcohol consumption can magnify the effect of acetaminophen on the liver. If you regularly have three or more alcoholic drinks per day, you should check with your healthcare provider before taking acetaminophen (or any other pain reliever).
Because of the potential for overdose, children should never be given "extra strength" acetaminophen products. Regular strength ones should be given at the stated doses for children or after speaking with a healthcare professional or pharmacist.
How To Take Over The Counter NSAIDs Safely:
NSAIDs slightly increase the risk of bleeding. People on blood thinners, pregnant or nursing women, and people at risk for internal bleeding should not take these products. They can also affect your liver's function and health and lead to gastrointestinal bleeding.
In order to avoid these effects, you shouldn't take more than one NSAID at a time or an NSAID with aspirin without first consulting a physician. If you're taking a multi-drug medication (for example, pills for relief of menstrual symptoms may include several different medications), make sure it doesn't already contain an NSAID if you're taking an NSAID separately. Lastly, pregnant and nursing women should speak with their healthcare provider before using an OTC NSAID.
Other Things To Think About:
If you find yourself taking any OTC pain reliever over a long period of time (several weeks), you should see your healthcare provider. The pain may indicate a problem that needs to be dealt with rather than masked, and there may be treatment that will take care of the problem, rather than merely covering the symptoms.
Adkinson: Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice, 6th ed., Ch.93, 2003
"Aspirin," Mosby's Drug Consult, Mosby, Inc, 2005
"Acetaminophen," Mosby's Drug Consult, Mosby, Inc, 2005
"NSAID," Mosby's Drug Consult, Mosby, Inc, 2005
"Ibuprofen," Mosby's Drug Consult, Mosby, Inc, 2005
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Army Report Validates Prediction of Vaccine-Induced Epidemic
"The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it." - Joseph MengeleThe Army is still in denial but now admits the epidemic of Gulf War Syndrome II which I predicted would result from its own blatantly unethical vaccine policy (see warning here: http://www.
Warning! Flu Shots Can Be Dangerous To Your Health
Every year about this time doctors around the world are recommending that people go in and get their annual flu shot. What most people don't know or understand is just how dangerous this could be, especially for children under the age of 12.
7 Tips to Keep Your Fluid Down on Dialysis
As any dialysis patient will tell you, keeping your fluid gain between dialysis sessions in check is not only important to your long term health, it is a major factor in your immediate well-being.Keeping fluid level gains as low as possible between dialysis treatments will minimize the risk of congestive heart failure, pulmonary oedema, and hypertension.
Zyprexa - History of the Drug
Since the beginning of mankind, mental illness has played a role in our society. Victims of such illnesses have been outcast, stereotyped and often ridiculed.
How You Can Erase Low Back Pain Using the Latest Medical Techniques!
"If you're one the nine out of ten adults in the United States who suffers from low back pain, I have good news for you!" states Dr. Nathan Wei, a board-certified rheumatologist and Clinical Director of the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Maryland.
Lamisil Side Effects Lawyer: Lamisil Tablet
While the recent Lamisil commercial featuring Digger, a disgusting cartoon fungus, is still fresh in our mind (who could forget the imagery of a toenail being pulled back and colorful germs crawling in?) it is a good time to look at the side effects of this seemingly innocuous drug. Despite the disturbing advertising campaign, who would have guessed that an antifungal tablet could have so many negative side effects?The drug comes in both cream and tablet form and is used to fight nail fungus, athlete's foot, jock itch, and ringworm.
Adaptogens for Life - The Science Behind the Discovery of Adaptogens
Modern civilization has produced an unusually stressful environment to humans and animals, with extreme high demands on our physical and mental abilities. The last one hundred years have brought unique new challenges for all.
Why Our Healthcare System Isnt Healthy
Most people are well aware that an estimated 45 million Americans currently do not have healthcare, but is the crisis simply the lack of health insurance or even the cost of health insurance? Is there a bigger underlying problem at the root of our healthcare system? Although the U.S.
What is R.I.
Using Blood Pressure Monitors To Maintain Your Health
Many people today realize the importance of keeping their blood pressure under control. Blood pressure monitors are now available for home use.
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