While it may protect you from heart disease, prevent cancer, and safeguard your skin, aspirin isn't always the right pill to pop for treating your everyday aches and pains.
When you think of over-the-counter meds, the main categories are acetaminophen (Tylenol), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), says Mary Lynn McPherson, Pharm.D., a professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
All of these medicines will lower your fever, but some help your symptoms more than others, she explains. So to put an end to your confusion, follow these simple guidelines for choosing which remedy to reach for when you feel pain. (Discover hundreds more doctor-approved, do-it-yourself fixes for every injury imaginable in The AthleteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Book of Home Remedies.)
The Issue: You rolled your ankle while jogging Your Rx: Motrin or Advil The half-life for ibuprofen is about 6 hours, says McPherson. So if the sprain isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t causing excruciating pain, take an Advil or Motrin. By choosing either one over Tylenol, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re reaping both pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory rewards. Any time you have something red and hot like a joint, NSAIDs are the way to go, McPherson says.
The Issue: That nagging headache is back Your Rx: Tylenol If itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just a regular headache, acetaminophen is fine, says McPherson. But if you have a past history with liver disease, then take it with caution, since too much acetaminophen can lead to liver damage. (Heavy drinkers, take note.)
The Issue: You overdid it at the gym, and now your joints kill Your Rx: Aleve NaproxenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s half-life is about 12 hours, which means it beats out the shorter-lasting ibuprofen for especially painful joints, says McPherson.
The Issue: YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got a head-splitting migraine Your Rx: Excedrin Since side effects tend to get worse when a headache grows into a migraineÃ¢â‚¬”think nausea, vomiting, throbbing pain, or sensitivity to lightÃ¢â‚¬”youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll need more than a basic painkiller to cure it. Your move: Reach for an Excedrin, which contains aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine all in one tablet, McPherson says. (Sometimes you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even need meds to ease your pain. LearnÃ‚Â The Pill-Free Headache Fix.)
Get more info on how to treat cuts, allergies, cold sores, and other common health woes in the October 2012 issue of Women's Health magazine, on newsstands September 11.
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