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Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen: Which Pain Reliever to Choose

It depends on what ails you

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There are a few different kinds of pain-relieving medicines on the market, and although these over-the-counter drugs can provide similar results, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are not the same. So how do you know which one is the best for you and your condition?

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Two of the most common pain relievers are acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Many people often refer to them by their popular brand names. Acetaminophen is in Tylenol, while ibuprofen is in Advil and Motrin.

Acetaminophen relieves pain and reduces fevers. It’s the better choice to treat headaches and sore throats because it provides quick pain relief. It is also safer to take more for longer periods if your symptoms persist.

Ibuprofen is also a pain reliever and fever reducer, but it can also reduce inflammation and swelling. Because of these additional benefits, ibuprofen is recommended for sinus infections, arthritis, earaches, toothaches, muscle soreness and body aches.

You should also opt for ibuprofen to treat menstrual cramps as it inhibits the production of prostaglandins, which is what causes cramps. Taking acetaminophen will only treat the pain but not help the root cause.

However, something else to consider is one of ibuprofen’s side effects. It can upset the digestive system, causing stomach ulcers, heartburn and constipation, so if you’re already experiencing stomach issues, you should consider avoiding ibuprofen to treat your pain. 

As both ibuprofen and alcohol can irritate your stomach, combining the two can result in further stomach issues as well. Ibuprofen can cause severe stomach bleeding, especially if it is taken at higher doses for long periods of time, so it’s advised to avoid mixing it with alcohol.

Combining acetaminophen and alcohol can also have adverse long-term effects, as both are processed by the liver. Regular, heavy alcohol use combined with repeated daily doses of acetaminophen can cause liver damage.


Having one if not both of these painkillers on hand is wise when assembling an emergency kit. Along with ibuprofen and acetaminophen, here’s what to put in your first-aid kit.