Skip to main content

Consider Your Health Conditions

If you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, a history of stomach bleeding, asthma, kidney disease, or liver disease, some over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers may be more appropriate for you than others. Being over age 60 may also affect your pain reliever choice.  Use the information below and talk to your healthcare professional if you have any questions about the right OTC pain reliever for you.

Common OTC pain relievers

Acetaminophen

(for example, Tylenol®)

NSAIDs*

  • Ibuprofen

   (for example, Motrin® IB, Advil®)

  • Naproxen sodium

   (for example, Aleve®)

  • Aspirin

   (for example, Bayer® Extra Strength)

Do you have any of these health conditions?

If so, know that certain OTC pain reliever differences could matter to your health.

High Blood Pressure & NSAIDs

High blood pressure, heart disease, or have had a stroke

The American Heart Association identifies acetaminophen as a pain relief option to try first for patients with, or at high risk for, heart disease.

Ask your healthcare professional before using an NSAID. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or have had a stroke, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium may further increase these risks. If you take aspirin to help protect against heart attack or stroke, taking ibuprofen may decrease that hearthealth benefit.

Stomach Ulcers & NSAIDs

History of stomach bleeding, stomach ulcers, or heartburn

Acetaminophen may be a more appropriate choice of pain reliever, as it does not irritate the stomach the way naproxen sodium or even ibuprofen can.

Ask your healthcare professional before using an NSAID. If you have had stomach ulcers or bleeding problems, or consume 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day, the chance of stomach bleeding is higher if you take an NSAID such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or aspirin.

Asthma & NSAIDS

Asthma

Acetaminophen may be a more appropriate choice of pain reliever for many people with asthma.

Ask your healthcare professional before using an NSAID. If you have asthma that is sensitive to NSAIDs, taking an NSAID such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or aspirin could make your asthma worse.

Kidney Disease & NSAIDs

Kidney disease

If you have kidney disease, the National Kidney Foundation identifies acetaminophen as an OTC pain reliever of choice for occasional use.

Ask your healthcare professional before using an NSAID If you have kidney disease, taking an NSAID may lead to reduced kidney function.

Liver Disease & Acetaminophen

Liver disease or liver cirrhosis

Ask your healthcare professional before using acetaminophen if you have liver disease. Severe liver damage may occur if you take more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen in 24 hours, take with other drugs that contain acetaminophen, or have 3 or more alcoholic drinks every day while using acetaminophen.

Ask your healthcare professional before using an NSAID if you have liver cirrhosis. Taking an NSAID such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or aspirin can increase your risk of further liver damage, reduced kidney function, and stomach bleeding.

60 or older NSAIDs & Acetaminophen

Age 60 or older

If you are age 60 or older, acetaminophen may be a more appropriate pain reliever choice, depending on your health history and other medications.

Ask your healthcare professional before using an NSAID. If you are age 60 or older, taking an NSAID such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or aspirin could increase the change of stomach bleeding.

Remember to tell your healthcare professional all the OTC and prescription medicines you are taking, as well as vitamins and herbal supplements, to make sure they do not interact with the OTC pain reliever you choose.

*NSAIDs = Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

† When symptoms are not controlled without medicine.

Remember, not all OTC pain medicines are appropriate for everyone