Guide to OTC Pain Relievers

A pain in the head, back, neck, or stomach can really put a damper on your day. Not every ache and pain requires a trip to the doctor. There are many common ailments you can treat with over the counter (OTC) pain relievers.@Glowimages gww39442621.

Know before you go:

  • Symptoms you are experiencing
  • Any medications you are currently taking including dosage (prescription or OTC)
  • Allergies or health issues
  • Medicines you have previously used to treat this problem

Find the right aisle:

Pain relief

  • Advil: ibuprofen; most popular pain relief medication
  • Tylenol: acetaminophen for pain relief
  • Aleve: naproxen for pain relief
  • Bayer: aspirin; may be difficult for children to digest and can cause internal bleeding in very extreme cases
  • Pain relievers labeled for migraine relief usually contain the same ingredients as their regular counterparts so be sure to compare labels to ensure you get what you need for the best value.
  • Other brands may contain a combination of the above ingredients, and generic forms are available for all types.
  • All medications can have side effects including: gastrointestinal, kidney and liver problems.

Cough, Cold and Allergy

  • Dimetapp Cold and Allergy Elixir: Brompheniramine
  • Chlor-Trimeton: Chlorpheniramine
  • Dramamine: Dimenhydrinate
  • Benadryl Allergy, Nytol, Sominex: Diphenhydramine
  • Vicks NyQuil, Alka-Seltzer Plus Night-Time Cold Medicine: Doxylamine
  •  Alavert, Claritin: Loratadine
  • Zyrtec: Cetirizine
  • There are few side effects associated with antihistamines other than drowsiness.
  • Children and adults rarely have problems with antihistamines while older people with health problems may have cause for concern and should consult with a doctor.
  • Antihistamines may be combined with pain relievers or decongestants so make sure you are only medicating the symptoms you have.


  • Methyl salicylate can provide topical pain relief when used correctly. Keep these medications out of reach of children.
  • Compound creams are not evaluated by the FDA and may not be safe or effective.
  • Check the active ingredients and possible side effects.

Choose your form:
Most medications come in a variety of forms from pills to caplets to gel capsules to sweetly coated tabs to liquids. They vary in size. Some people feel that gel caps work more quickly. In general, all forms are equally effective; just choose your preference.

Read Carefully:
You need to read all “drug facts” written on the side of the medicine container. Check the active ingredients to make sure you are not already using it in another form of medication. Review the purpose of each active ingredient to see if you need relief for that problem. Only choose medicine that treats the symptoms you have. Do not medicate for something you are not experiencing. Read the warnings to see if there is any reason to consult your doctor before taking the medication. Read the dosage information for adults and children. Do not exceed recommended amount or frequency. Pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking any medication.

You can search for Drug Information in our Health Library to find out more about specific medications you may take. Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point is here to help you whenever you need us. Call our free Consult-a-Nurse service if you have any concerns about medication or drug interactions.

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Getting “Back” Your Life: Getting Rid of Lower Back Pain

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2 Responses to Guide to OTC Pain Relievers

  1. the moderator says:


  2. I’ve learned a lot from your blog here! Keep on going, I will keep an eye on it.

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