Q. I get confused with when to take acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen. How do you know which of these medicines to take when you have pain or discomfort?
A. If you have non-specific pain, discomfort or headaches – any of these agents will work well for fever and low to moderate pain. Aspirin and ibuprofen work well for inflammation and swelling, but acetaminophen is a weak anti-inflammatory agent. Pain from arthritis or injury would respond better to aspirin or ibuprofen. Acetaminophen and aspirin last four hours, but ibuprofen can give relief for up to eight hours. Side effects are important since aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate your stomach and should be taken with food or milk, whereas acetaminophen is gentle on the stomach. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage in overdose or in people with liver disease and/or significant alcohol use. Aspirin and ibuprofen may decrease kidney function. Aspirin should not be used in children under 21 due to risk of Reye’s syndrome. If pain persists without an identifiable cause, consult your physician. Always feel free to discuss your medication concerns with your physician or pharmacist. Manufacturer recommended doses should never be exceeded.
Eugene Ryan, M.D., Chief of Staff
Parkridge Medical Group’s Diagnostic Center
2205 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga, TN, 37404