Written by Lauren Young
Throbbing. Cramps. Soreness. Opening my medicine cabinet, I am faced with a variety of over the counter (OTC) drugs that can give me quick pain relief. However, the question I am always faced with is which painkiller to take? Some known painkillers include Advil and Tylenol, but is there one better suited for a certain type of pain than the other? Tylenol, which contains acetaminophen, is one of the top OTC drugs available for pain relief. However, one of its biggest competitors is Advil, containing ibuprofen. So what exactly are the differences and similarities between these two drugs?
Advil is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, so its main strength is easing inflammation. This is better for fevers, menstrual cramps, sinusitis, backache, muscle soreness, earaches, and toothaches. On the other hand, Tylenol can help relieve headaches and arthritis pain. However, Tylenol and Advil are surprisingly equally effective in soothing sore throats . Both are fast-acting agents that can last up to four hours, but there is a maximum dosage of 4000mg for acetominophen and 1200mg for ibuprofen every 24 hours. As with any medication, there are possible side effects that also need to be considered.
Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen do block COX enzymes that reduce production of prostaglandins, substances released during injury that cause pain and inflammation, but ibuprofen blocks specifically COX-2 enzymes (pain signaling and inflammation) and COX-1 enzymes (protective effect on stomach lining) . This can cause potential side effects that may damage the stomach. Additionally, using tylenol may cause rare, possibly fatal skin reactions . One of the most common uses of these pain killers is hangovers, so there could be detrimental damage when taking these pills along with alcohol consumption. Based on Consumer Reports on Health, “in the case of acetaminophen the risk is liver damage, for ibuprofen and other OTC pain relievers, the risk is gastrointestinal bleeding” .
Additionally, age is a huge factor when deciding which to take. For those of older age with certain health conditions, pregnant women, and for infants six months or younger, Advil should completely be avoided. It is also advised that ibuprofen, which is chemically similar to aspirin, be avoided for children under 18 because it has been found to be linked to Reye’s syndrome, which causes swelling in the liver and brain . For healthy adults, Advil and Tylenol are both equally effective, just make sure to choose the better suited pill. Generally, Advil is better for muscle pains and strains, while Tylenol eases headaches. Make sure to take the recommended dosage and alternate between the painkillers for the best relief. In the end, both are affordable options that can soothe unwanted pain.