When it comes to treating headaches or other ailments, you will get the best results if you know all of your choices. All over-the-counter pain medications are not the same, and taking one might not help you as well as another. Understanding the main active ingredients and what each is meant to do, then matching them with your symptoms instead of just reading the name of the medication, can help ensure that you are taking the right stuff at the right time.
The number one rule when it comes to choosing an over-the-counter medication is to read every bit of available information on that bottle. Know what the ingredients are, how much you are supposed to take, how often you are supposed to take it, and compare it to other brands and medications. The biggest mistake people make is just reading the brand name or the title, assuming that it will fix all their ailments and then taking too much.
Know Your Pain Killers
Of course, you want to know a little bit about what you are reading. Knowing what the active ingredients are and what effect they will have on your body will not only help you choose the right medication to help you, but will also ultimately keep you safe.
A lot of people refer to different types of over-the-counter pain medications by their brand names. Others go so far as to refer to any over-the-counter pain medication as “Tylenol”. This is certainly effective marketing on the company’s part, but it is not correct.
Learn about the choices of over-the-counter pain medications:
- Tylenol (acetaminophen): Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. It is for minor aches and pains only. Taking too much acetaminophen can be harmful to your liver and although safe when taken as directed, even small overdoses can be very dangerous or even fatal.
- Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen): Ibuprofen is the main ingredient in a lot of brand name over-the-counter medications such as Advil, Motrin, and Midol. Ibuprofen is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and can help with inflammation, pain caused by inflammation, and fever. Taking too much ibuprofen is dangerous, especially to your stomach.
- Aleve (naproxen): Naproxen is another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is useful in the treatment of many ailments such as pain, inflammation, and fever. It is gentler on the stomach than ibuprofen, but there is still a risk of problems when not taken as directed.
- Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid): Aspirin isn’t just for heart attacks, but it won’t fix everything either. It is useful to treat pain, fever, and inflammation. Especially for people with allergies to aspirin, it is important to know the technical name for aspirin – acetylsalicylic acid.
No matter what medication you choose or what you are taking it for, it is very important that you read and follow the directions. Most of these medications are safe as directed, but overdose is possible and does occur. Not only is there the risk of overdose, but taking too much of some of these medications can also cause you more problems in the long run.
Ask Your Pharmacist
Whenever you have questions about any medication, the directions, or the ingredients, never hesitate to speak to a pharmacist. Especially if you see ingredients that you do not recognize, or do not understand the function of, a pharmacist will be better able to help you make the right choice.
Many people feel that since these medications are sold over the counter that they cannot harm you, but the fact is that when taken inappropriately they can be harmful to your health and body. Make sure you read the facts, know what you’re taking, why you are taking it and follow the directions. When you have any doubts or questions, always speak to your physician or a pharmacist for recommendations.