Troubled with a raging headache or sore muscles? Before reaching for an over-the-counter medicine for relieving pain, the sufferer should be well-aware of the type of medicine they are taking, i.e. their benefits and side effects. One must always read the label and follow directions before taking any medication. Read on to know what to consider when choosing an OTC pain reliever.
What To Consider When Choosing An OTC Pain Reliever?
There are 2 main types of pain relievers available today, namely Acetaminophen and Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Both of these OTC medicines help in relieving pain and reducing fever. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium, are some of the common NSAIDs. OTC Pain relievers are available as liquids, tablets, caplets, and gel caps. Here are 10 Important Considerations for Choosing an OTC Pain Reliever:
Age Affects the Safety of the OTC Pain Reliever
Earlier, parents often gave their babies aspirin for fevers and illness. But, because doctors now know that aspirin can cause Reye’s syndrome, which is a rare but serious condition that affects the kidneys, brain, and liver, they advise against giving this OTC medicine to children and teens during times of illness. It is safer to give ibuprofen and acetaminophen to kids as long as the dosage is right for their weight and age. Seniors should also take OTC pain relievers with caution, since older adults are more likely to develop side effects from OTC pain relievers.
It is Dangerous to Combine OTC Pain Relievers with Alcoholic Drinks
A combination of OTC pain relievers and alcohol can be very dangerous. Many drugs, including OTC pain relievers, carry warnings about consuming alcohol when taking the medication. So it is very important to read the label and follow instructions on the medicine bottle before using it. Never ever use OTC pain medicines along with alcohol.
OTC Pain Relievers Affect Blood Pressure
Certain OTC pain relievers can interact with some high blood pressure medications, or can raise the blood pressure in people who have yet not been diagnosed with hypertension. When taking prescriptive high blood pressure drugs, the blood pressure of the patient should be monitored regularly when also taking OTC pain relievers. The patient should consult a doctor to find out which OTC pain medication would be most suitable for them.
OTC Pain Relievers Are Harmful For Sensitive Stomach
Some NSAID pain relievers, like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, can be hard on the gut. Over-the-counter NSAID pain relievers can irritate the stomach lining and lead to ulcers and bleeding, or even aggravate existing ulcers. When it is necessary to use an NSAID pain reliever, the user should protect their stomach by taking the lowest possible dose of these drugs, for the shortest possible time. It is best to take NSAIDs pain relievers with food. Ones who need to have an NSAID every day, for more than a week, should contact a doctor.
OTC Pain Relievers Can Overwork Your Kidneys
Kidneys are hard-working organs which filter wastes, and maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. But NSAIDs can disturb their ability to do these jobs efficiently. Regular use of these OTC pain relievers can aggravate kidney problems and lead to kidney failure. Ones suffering from chronic kidney diseases should check with their doctor before using any NSAID pain reliever. They can rather choose among the many kidney-friendly alternatives are available in drug stores. Combining alcohol with acetaminophen can also cause kidney damage. People should thus avoid mixing the two.
OTC Pain Relievers Hurt the Heart Health
OTC pain relievers can be beneficial, as well as dangerous, for people with heart problems. While daily low-dose aspirin can help prevent blood clots that can cause stroke or heart attack, long-term non-aspirin NSAID use, specifically at high doses, can hinder the blood-thinning effect of aspirin. It can even increase blood pressure and raise the risk of heart attack or stroke. Patients of cardiac disease or high blood pressure should check with their doctor before using NSAIDs. Such OTC pain medicines are generally not recommended for people with heart failure, cirrhosis or kidney disease.
Know About Your OTC Pain Relievers
Combination OTC products like cold and flu remedies, often contain many drugs. For avoiding excess intake, the user should look at the products list of active ingredients. Like, if acetaminophen is present in a OTC pain medicine, the user should need to know that they should avoid taking more acetaminophen separately, for say, fever. Reading labels can also help one avoid drugs which they are allergic to.
OTC Pain Relievers Worsen Liver Problems
Acetaminophen-containing drugs and other analgesics are usually effective and safe when used as directed, but risks are; however, present with all medications.
Acetaminophen is great for relieving pain, but it can adversely affect the liver. Severe liver injury can occur if an overdose of OTC acetaminophen is taken. So, to prevent liver problems, taking more than the recommended total daily dose should be strictly avoided. Drinking alcohol while taking OTC acetaminophen-containing medications should be avoided too. When necessary, one should only take the lowest possible dose of OTC NSAID for the shortest period of time. Cirrhosis patients should completely avoid NSAIDs and use acetaminophen in small doses, only. People should talk to their doctor to find out which OTC pain reliever is best for them.
Pain Relievers are a “NO-NO” During Pregnancy
When a woman is pregnant, almost everything which goes into their body reaches the baby too. Generally, NSAIDs are not recommended for pregnant women during their third trimester as it can increase the risk of complications in the newborn. When experiencing pain, pregnant women should check with their doctor to evaluate the reason for their discomfort, and instead of taking NSAIDs, they should use effective home remedies, like a massage or lukewarm soak for back pain. Before taking any OTC pain reliever, expecting mothers should check with their doctor to ensure that it is safe for them and their baby.
Interactions of OTC Pain Relievers with Other Drugs
Some drugs do not gel well with each other. Taking them together can lead to dangerous interactions. For instance, OTC pain relievers like NSAIDs raise the risk of bleeding, when taken with the blood-thinners like warfarin. Acetaminophen can increase its effects too. Since, some drug interactions can be life threatening, a person should inform the doctor about all the medications and supplements they are taking, even OTC drugs, herbal remedies or vitamin supplements.
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