How to … choose the best pain reliever

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Older people are the more likely to experience side-effects when taking over-the-counter pain relievers. So, while it’s easy to trust familiar brands when reaching for an over-the-counter pain reliever, there are things, according to WebMD, you should consider first.

There are two main types of pain relief, acetaminophen and nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Acetaminophen, such as Panadol or Tylenol, reduces pain and fever, as do NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and aspirin. NSAIDs are usually not recommended if you have cirrhosis, kidney disease or heart failure.

If you are taking any other medicines or have a pre-existing condition, it is important to consult a health professional before taking pain relievers. Always read the label on any medicines before you take them. Some may mix poorly with others or contain ingredients you are allergic to. There are some ingredients that you should keep an eye out for. Acetaminophen is an effective pain reliever when taken as prescribed. However, it can seriously harm your liver if taken in too high a dose, should not be consumed alongside alcohol and should only be taken for a short period.

Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium may irritate the stomach, causing harm and even exacerbating ulcers. These are both NSAIDs, pain relievers that may overwork your kidneys. Prolonged use of these drugs can worsen conditions such as kidney disease.

As the label of many over-the-counter pain relievers will warn, mixing these drugs with alcohol can be a dangerous combination. Some over-the-counter pain relief may also increase blood pressure or alter the effects of blood pressure medication.

A low dose of aspirin is sometimes used to thin blood, helping to prevent blood clots. However, taking a higher dose of non-aspirin NSAIDs can increase blood pressure, interfere with the blood thinning effects of aspirin and even increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Children are at risk of a rare and dangerous condition called Reye’s syndrome if they take aspirin when they are ill. Instead, they should take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If you are prescribed a new medicine or are concerned about the impact of over-the-counter pain medication on your health, consult your GP.

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


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Written by Liv Gardiner


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