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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Get Relief From the Aches and Pains of a Cold

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Are Pain Relievers Safe? continued...

Children and teens with chickenpox, the flu, or a fever shouldn't take aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a potentially serious medical condition. And the FDA and drugmakers say that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under age 4.

Some doctors say that people with asthma should avoid aspirin because they get short of breath.

NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen, may also cause stomach upset. They can also cause fluid buildup, leading to swelling (edema) as well as kidney and liver failure.

People with asthma are at higher risk for serious allergic reactions to NSAIDs. These pain relievers can also increase blood pressure, especially if you already have high blood pressure.

Acetaminophen is easier on the stomach than NSAIDs, but it can cause liver damage if you take more than it says on the instructions, particularly if you drink alcohol. You shouldn't take it if you already have liver disease or if you regularly drink moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol.

Since combination cold medicines often have a pain reliever in them, usually acetaminophen or ibuprofen, be careful that you don't take another painkiller on top of that.

Read the ingredients label to see which pain reliever is in your cold medicine. If it's one that's not safe to take with your medical condition, look for another. To be safe, talk with your doctor about any OTC drugs you're thinking of using. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on September 29, 2015
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