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What are NSAIDs?

NSAIDs stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They are a commonly used type of pain reliever and fever reducer available over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription. Even if you did not know the term “NSAID,” you probably do know some OTC NSAIDs by their active ingredients or brand names.

What is ibuprofen?
What is aspirin?
What is naproxen sodium?

OTC NSAIDs include:

Ibuprofen: for example, Advil®, Motrin® IB

Aspirin: for example, Bayer® Extra Strength

Naproxen sodium: for example, Aleve®

How do NSAIDs work?

NSAIDs help relieve pain by blocking pain signals within the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and throughout the body. NSAIDs work differently than acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol®, Excedrin® Tension Headache), the other main type of oral pain reliever. What is acetaminophen?

What do I need to know about NSAIDs?

  • Even though they belong to the same category, different OTC NSAIDs have different dosages, directions, and daily limits. It is not safe to apply the dosing directions from one NSAID to another. Download an OTC pain reliever dosing chart for the correct ibuprofen dosage, naproxen sodium dosage, and aspirin dosages.

  • All NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding, kidney damage, and other side effects, but you can reduce your risks by following the directions and taking the right dose. NSAIDs have additional warnings; read the labels.

  • More than 900 medicines contain an NSAID, including prescription and OTC medicines such as headache remedies, cold and flu symptom treatments, and sleep aids. Take ONLY 1 medicine that contains an NSAID at a time. Why? Taking more than one NSAID at a time increases your risk of stomach bleeding, heart attack, stroke, or other harmful side effects.

OTC medicine brands that contain an NSAID (such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen sodium)

Examples

  • Advil®

  • Aleve®

  • Bayer®

  • Motrin®

  • Excedrin®

  • Alka-Seltzer Plus®

  • Goody’s®

Prescription medicines that contain an NSAID (brand name and ingredients)

Examples

  • Vicoprofen®(Hydrocodone/ibuprofen)

  • Combunox®(Oxycodone/ibuprofen)

  • Mobic®(Meloxicam)

  • Naprosyn®(Naproxen)

  • Anaprox®(Naproxen Sodium)

  • Celebrex®(Celecoxib)

This is not a complete list of OTC and prescription brands with products that contain an NSAID. Check your medicine label. If you are unsure, ask your healthcare professional

Key safety tips

What is ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is a common pain reliever and fever reducer. It belongs to the group of pain relievers known as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) . Some strengths of ibuprofen require a prescription; others are available OTC, for example, Advil® and Motrin® IB.

Important ibuprofen warnings

Ibuprofen has the same risks as other NSAIDs, such as stomach bleeding. Here are some other ibuprofen warnings:

  • Taking ibuprofen or other non-aspirin NSAIDs (for example, naproxen sodium) increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

  • If you take aspirin to help protect against heart attack or stroke, ibuprofen may decrease aspirin’s heart-health benefit. A different OTC pain reliever may be more appropriate. To help find the right choice for you, use the pain reliever comparison chart or talk with your healthcare professional.

For additional ibuprofen warnings and dosing directions, always read and follow the label.

Key safety tips

What is aspirin?

Aspirin is a pain reliever and fever reducer. It belongs to the NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) family of pain relievers. It is widely available OTC (for example, Bayer® Extra Strength) and by prescription.

Important aspirin warnings

Aspirin has most of the same risks as other NSAIDs, such as stomach bleeding. Here are some other aspirin warnings:

  • If you take a prescription medicine for gout, diabetes, or arthritis, talk to your healthcare professional before using OTC aspirin.

  • If you take aspirin to help protect against heart attack or stroke, ibuprofen may decrease aspirin’s heart-health benefit. If you are considering taking ibuprofen, ask your healthcare professional if another pain reliever may be more appropriate for you.

  • Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers when they have an illness caused by a virus (such as the flu), because in these cases aspirin can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye Syndrome. (See more from American Academy of Pediatrics)

For additional aspirin warnings and dosing directions, always read and follow the label.

Key safety tips

What is naproxen sodium?

Naproxen sodium is a pain reliever and fever reducer; it belongs to the category of pain relievers known as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Naproxen sodium is available as an OTC pain reliever (for example, Aleve®) and by prescription.

Important naproxen sodium warnings

Naproxen sodium has the same risks as other NSAIDs, such as stomach bleeding. Here is another naproxen sodium warning:

  • Taking naproxen sodium or other non-aspirin NSAIDs (for example, ibuprofen) increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

For additional naproxen sodium warnings and dosing directions, always read and follow the label.

Key safety tips:

  • Take the smallest effective dose, and take it for the shortest amount of time needed.

  • Take ONLY 1 medicine that contains an NSAID at a time.

  • It is not safe to apply the dosing directions from one NSAID to another. Get dosing chart

  • If your pain lasts for more than 10 days, stop taking the medicine and see your healthcare professional.

  • If you have any questions about choosing or using OTC pain relievers, talk with your healthcare professional.