Pharmacist’s Corner: Advil or Tylenol?

We all have some; whether its Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, Aleve or some other brand of pain reliever. They’re a necessary staple in your busy day to day life.

But when it comes down to it, what do they do? What’s the difference? And the real question is, which one will help you more?

Well it’s decidedly situational. To figure out which one you need it’s best to start by looking at the key active ingredient. In Tylenol you have acetaminophen, Advil and Motrin both contain ibuprofen and Aleve contains naproxen. So, to sum up: a bunch of big unnecessary pharma terms that we are going to explore.


This, being the active ingredient in Tylenol (also called paracetamol) is a general pain reliever that is useful for things like sinus pain, fever due to illness, headaches or other minor aches and pains. It is also the preferred medication for mild to moderate pain and fever in pregnancy.

The word of caution I like to give for Acetaminophen is that it’s typically processed using the liver and in high dosages can damage it (don’t worry, just stick to the recommendations on the bottle or whatever your doctor or pharmacist recommends).

If you have existing liver issues it’s safer to avoid products with acetaminophen as the main active ingredient.

Many over the counter preparations such as those for cough and cold also contain acetaminophen, so be sure to read the list of ingredients to make sure you’re not taking more than one acetaminophen-containing product at a time.

Ibuprofen and Naproxen

Although these both sound very different, they both belong to the same family of medications. They are both known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). You can focus on the words anti-inflammatory here to indicate what they’re best for.

These active ingredients will target and reduce pain and swelling.  So, if you’re sore due to a sprain or a bump, ibuprofen and naproxen are the best choice here.

Once again, these have a couple side effects to keep in mind. NSAIDS can cause stomach upset so they’re better tolerated when taken with food. High dosages can have a negative impact on the kidneys (go by the recommendations on the bottle, or listen to your doctor or pharmacist and it won’t be an issue). They also have a blood-thinning effect and can increase blood pressure, so if you have heart problems, clotting issues, or high blood pressure, it’s best to consult someone before taking them.

Many over the counter preparations such as those for cough and cold contain an NSAID like ibuprofen. Be sure to read the list of ingredients to make sure you’re not taking more than one NSAID at a time.

So, what do I choose?

Ultimately, it’s up to you. Both have different uses and are very situational. Always remember that if you’re going to use one of these over the counter medications, use the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration of time. If you’re still not sure which one is right for you don’t hesitate to talk to the experts down at Capsule Pharmacy for more information.

Stay healthy out there!

by Capsule Pharmacy | | Categories : Categories: Uncategorized

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