Over-the-Counter Medicine Basics

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Do you know the difference between the run-of-the-mill pills you stock your medicine cabinet with? Each of these has different uses and purposes. We’ve developed a cheat-sheet for you to help sort out the different drug and brand names, along with knowing what they are used for.

Acetaminophen
Also known as: Tylenol
What it is: Aniline analgesic
Uses: It is used to reduce fevers, treat aches and pains for those who can’t use anti-inflammatory medications
Maximum daily recommendation: 4,000 milligrams
Caution: Beware of dosage rates, especially in children as the dosage depends on weight. People with liver problems should avoid acetaminophen as it can cause liver toxicity.

Fun Fact: 23 percent of American’s use acetaminophen in a given week (Slone, JAMA 2002)

Ibuprofen
Also known as: Motrin or Advil
What it is: Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID)
Uses: It is used for pain relief and to decrease inflammation
Maximum daily recommendation: 3,200 milligrams
Caution: Those with kidney disease or a history of bleeding from the stomach or bowels should not take NSAIDs as it may aggravate these problems.

Naproxen
Also known as: Aleve
What it is: Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID)
Uses: It is used for pain relief and to decrease inflammation
Maximum daily recommendation: 1650 milligrams
Caution: Those with kidney disease or a history of bleeding from the stomach or bowels should not take NSAIDs as it may aggravate these problems.

Aspirin
Also known as: Bayer
What it is: Salicylic acid
Uses: It is used to relieve headaches and minor aches and pains, decrease inflammation, and to treat or prevent heart disease or strokes.
Maximum daily recommendation: 4,000 milligrams
Caution: It is an anticoagulant, making it dangerous for hemophiliacs, and is not safe for kids as it has been linked to Reye’s syndrome.

Fun Fact: It was the first OTC pain reliever to be mass-produced, and its patent anniversary is coming up on March 5, making it 114 years old!

This is by no means a complete list of uses or cautions of these drugs. If you have any more questions about these, you can talk to your doctor or ask one of our friendly pharmacists!

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