Wednesday, 4 July 2012


An Overview of the Differences

When a toothache comes on, a painkiller tablet or two can serve as a stopgap until you can get to your dentist for treatment.  More than likely there's a box of paracetamol or ibuprofen in your medicine cabinet, or perhaps some aspirin.

They're all painkillers, or to use the correct medical term: analgesics.  The word analgesia is Greek in origin, meaning painlessness or without pain.

But in spite of being in the same group, paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin do have differences.  They do not do exactly the same thing.
One of many brands available
Paracetamol - this analgesic has what is known as anti-pyretic effects.  It will work to bring your temperature down if you are suffering from a fever.  What is does not do is treat inflammation.  If you have any swelling, paracetamol isn't going to do you much good other then dull the pain.

The primary concern of taking paracetamol is the potential damage it can do to your liver.  If you read the instructions that come with your pills and follow the guidelines, then you don't have to worry.  The liver is a sturdy organ that can handle the odd course of painkillers.  Serious damage is much more likely to occur if you take too much by mistake (elderly people in particular can forget when or if they took a painkiller recently).

Plenty of supermarkets do their own brands
Ibuprofen - unlike paracetamol, ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory.  You have swelling, go with this analgesic.  It's also considered to be safer than paracetamol since it doesn't have the same effect on the liver.  However, there are dangers with taking any medicine excessively.  In ibuprofens case, it's the risk of stomach ulcers.  Stick to the guidelines that come with your pills!

It's recommended that people who suffer from asthma don't take ibuprofen since it can make asthma worse in a small number of cases.

All pills will come with guidelines for the correct dosage
Aspirin - the use of aspirin  perhaps has more limitations to its use than the other two.  Like ibuprofen, it is an anti-inflammatory but it is also an anti-coagulant: it prevents blood from clotting.

This is the primary reason that you will be advised not to use aspirin as a painkiller after you have had surgery such as a tooth extraction.  It won't help your mouth to heal if you simply keep bleeding!

Similar to ibuprofen again, taking too high a dose of aspirin will put you at risk of stomach ulcers.  It is also strongly advised not to give aspirin to children under the age of 16 because of links with the rare but often fatal Reye's Syndrome.  Aspirin is by no means the sole cause, Reye's has not yet been found to have a definitive cause, but you should not allow a child to take aspirin unless it on the advice of your doctor.


As with any kind of medication, always listen to the advise your doctor, dentist or dental nurse gives you, read any pamphlet that comes with your pills and keep to the recommended dosage.  If you are ever in any doubt, ask for advice.


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