Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorYou stub your toe, get a headache, or make the thermometer spin the dial. What’s your best choice of pain reliever?

Any… or none of the above.

First is acetaminophen, or Tylenol. It’s perhaps the easiest on your stomach, and maybe safest for regular use (for example, if you have arthritis.)

It kicks in quickly, but doesn’t quite last as long as the others. Another plus- it generally mixes more safely with other meds.

Biggest cautions: overdose, or mixing with alcohol.

Take too much, or too frequently, or with other meds containing acetaminophen, and you risk kissing your liver goodbye.

It’s the same story of you even take an approved dose, but have even one drink of alcohol.

Ibuprofen, such as Advil, also kicks in quickly, and may last a touch longer than Tylenol. It’s especially good for menstrual pain and toothache, but it really doesn’t give you an anti-inflammatory effect at over the counter doses– despite popular folklore.

Ibuprofen can be rougher on the stomach, and over periods of time,  even lower doses, affect your kidneys. It also can raise your blood pressure.

For some, it simply works better than acetaminophen.

If you’re looking for the convenience of twice a day dosing, naproxen, or Aleve may be your best choice. It lasts generally lasts longer than the other two.

Its side effect profile is fairly similar to ibuprofen, so is the deal with so-called “anti-inflammatory” benefits.

You also have to be cautious mixing it with other meds, espcially blood thinners.

Bottom line: all of these medicines work well. But remember they are medicines, and therefore carry a risk of side effects.

Over the counter does not guarantee absolute safety.

Plus… you can have an allergic or hypersensitivity reaction to any of them, even if youve used them without problems 1000 times before.

Please, if you’re gobbling any of these every day (or so) , check with your doc to:

1. find out why– you can actually get “addicted” to these drugs and suffer rebound pain when you don’t take them. Know why youre sucking them down.

2. have blood tests done to make sure your innards are ok (ie liver and kidneys.)

Final thought, and an important one: genetics is huge here.

What works best for you,  may not work best for your friend… and vice versa. You metabolize these meds based on what your family genes tell you, and despite what a commercial may tell you, your body will let you know which of these products is best for you.

And by the way, for fever— you do not have to alternate drugs (see, I snuck in one extra final thought here.)

Final, final, final thought. Aspirin works, too.

(But don’t forget, it’s also a medicine)


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