Medicine Information

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

Copyright (C) Shoppe.MD and Ian Mason, 2004-2005

Ian Mason, owner of Shoppe.MD, your source for Online Prescription Medications, drug information and drug forums.

Ian is a fat-to-fit student of health, weight loss, exercise, and several martial arts; maintaining several websites in an effort to help provide up-to-date and helpful information for other who share his interests in health of body and mind.


MORE RESOURCES:
This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news


The Guardian

Adam Kay: 'If I had kids I would put them off studying medicine'
The Guardian
Kay had enjoyed a longstanding interest in comedy, performing in medical student revues, and later in corporate gigs for pharmaceutical companies. He'd also been on Radio 4 and performed at the Edinburgh festival, so comedy was the obvious way to go ...



Florida Flambeau

FSU College of Medicine hosts World AIDS Day vigil
Florida Flambeau
From 2008 to 2010, there were about 32 new HIV cases and 19 new AIDS cases in Leon County. During this time period, Leon County reported 1,392 cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. Gonorrhea and syphilis rates are higher in this county than ...

and more »


Salt Lake Tribune

Commentary: The Tribune was wrong. Medicine often involves a risk to the patient.
Salt Lake Tribune
(Courtesy of the Utah Department of Health) A health department initiative called Talk to Your Pharmacist placed stickers on bottles to prompt prescribers to talk to their pharmacist about the risk of using opioids. By Lynn Webster | For The Tribune ...



The Hindu

'Exciting careers beyond engineering and medicine'
The Hindu
In a State where a huge chunk of student population go towards engineering and medicine, choosing a course other than the two requires a certain aptitude. It's the aptitude that matters when choosing a career, experts from various fields advised ...



KFSN-TV

New Treatment for Neuropathy: Medicine's Next Big Thing?
KFSN-TV
Thirty percent of all Americans will be affected by peripheral neuropathy, a condition that impacts nerves leading to the arms and legs. (KFSN). KFSN. By Margot Kim. Saturday, December 09, 2017 11:48PM. Thirty percent of all Americans will be affected ...



Rethink Healthcare: Government hospitals must provide quality, affordable medicine
Economic Times (blog)
Delhi government's decision to cancel the licence of Max hospital, Shalimar Bagh, for negligence resulting in the death of a premature newborn – the baby was declared dead by the hospital even though he was alive at the time he was given to his parents ...

and more »


New York Times

What Doctors Should Ignore
New York Times
Those variants are enriched in people of African ancestry. Girish N. Nadkarni, a kidney specialist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, explained to me that scientists think this may be because those variants protect against the ...



EurekAlert (press release)

Landmark CAR-T cancer study published in the New England Journal of Medicine
EurekAlert (press release)
IMAGE: This is how CAR-T cell therapy harnesses a patient's immune system to fight cancer. view more. Credit: Loyola Medicine. MAYWOOD, IL - Loyola University Medical Center is the only Chicago center that participated in the pivotal clinical trial of ...
Loyola Medicine Oncologist Patrick Stiff, MD, Co-Author of Landmark @NEJM CAR-T Study, Offers Measured ...Newswise (press release)

all 5 news articles »


Daily Mail

HEALTH: Nature's medicine for sore joints
Daily Mail
When financier John Carey, then 35, woke up one night in 2002 with a searing pain in the ball of his left foot, the last thing on his mind was gout. 'I'd been training hard the day before – I practise judo and ran marathons – and thought I must have ...



HuffPost

Medicine And Why Net Neutrality Matters
HuffPost
Recently, the library at Einstein, where I work as a medical librarian, experienced a momentary internet outage. In that instant, everything seemed to stop in its tracks. Medical students preparing to take their STEP 1 Board exams couldn't finish their ...

and more »

Google News

home | site map | Dr. Thad Thomas
© 2006