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Know Which Medicines Contain OTC Pain Relievers

Here are some of the most common types of OTC medicines that may contain acetaminophen or NSAIDs. Some are also available in special formulas for children:

  • Pain relief medicines, including some prescription pain relievers
  • Fever relief medicines
  • Extra-strength pain relievers
  • Migraine medicines
  • Arthritis pain relievers
  • Menstrual pain formulas
  • Aspirin-free pain relievers
  • Allergy medicines
  • Cold symptom medicines
  • Flu symptom medicines
  • Sinus and headache medicines
  • Medicines for sleep

Being Safe With Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is the most widely used pain relief drug in the country: It’s an active ingredient in more than 600 different types of medicines. But acetaminophen can be especially dangerous when you take more than the recommended dose. It can cause serious liver damage, which can lead to liver failure and even death. And you may be at higher risk if you have liver disease or have more than three drinks of alcohol a day.

So it’s especially important to check all labels carefully to make sure acetaminophen is not an ingredient in more than one drug you’re taking. On some labels, acetaminophen may be listed as “APAP.” And if you’re traveling, be aware that acetaminophen is called paracetamol in some other countries, including the U.K.

Being Safe With NSAIDs

NSAIDs are safe for most people when taken at the right dose for a short period. However, they can increase risk for serious stomach bleeding. The risk is increased in people with a previous history of stomach bleeding, who are older than 60, who drink three or more alcoholic drinks a day, or if you are taking blood thinners or corticosteroids such as prednisone.

NSAIDs may also increase the risk for heart attack and stroke. Children should not take aspirin products because they can lead to Reye's syndrome, a rare but life-threatening condition.

In Case of Overdose

If you think you’ve taken too much of any OTC pain reliever, call your doctor or seek medical help right away. Signs and symptoms may not be noticeable right away. Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Burning in the throat or stomach
  • Pain in the stomach
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Fast eye movements
  • Tiredness
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Confusion

Choosing an OTC Pain Reliever

What you need to know to make a safe and effective choice.
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Pain Relief Poll

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