Analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help reduce different types of pains as well as fever. Acetaminophen is a widely used analgesic med; ibuprofen is an NSAID. These two drugs are commonly available through over the counter (OTC) route. Among these two meds, it becomes important to know which is better. Also, it is advised to understand the differences prior to starting your medication plan.

Acetaminophen is both an antipyretic (drug taken to decrease fever) and an analgesic (reliever of pains). The typical dose – for adults – ranges from 500 milligrams (mg) per eight (8) hours. This dosage is administered if you are using an immediate release version of acetaminophen. However, in case of an extended release form, the dosage can reach upto 1200 mg in 8 hours’ time. In case of children – especially those aged between 14 to 17 years: doses range at 15 mg per kilogram (kg) of body weight. In case of children aged above 10 years but below 14: dosages can vary from 8 to 10 mg per kg of body weight.

On the other hand, ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID); it is similar to drugs such as naproxen and aspirin. This med is used for treating pains caused by internal swelling / inflammation. In case of adults, ibuprofen is used in doses of about 300 mg every 5 hours. In case of autoimmune conditions such as arthritis or related joint pains, the dosage is increased to 500 mg – and is administered thrice per day. The maximum permissible dose of ibuprofen must never exceed 1.1 grams. However, if this med is taken through the prescription route, your physician may increase the dosages to higher levels.

Which of these meds is better?

Many studies are available on this subject. A few have submitted evidences that NSAIDs like ibuprofen are better for the treatment of pains. However, ibuprofen can cause a few gastric problems, toxicity issues or cardiac conditions in some people. These risks can be averted by taking ibuprofen in smaller dosage forms of less than 1000 mg within a 24-hour timeline.

In general, you may use either of these two meds for the treatment of fever, migraines / headache, other forms of minor pain. However, if you are witnessing muscular sprains or related strain, your caregiving team is likely to administer ibuprofen. This is mainly due to the fact that acetaminophen does not reduce inflammation or swelling.

Of the two drugs, acetaminophen is believed to alter the production of prostaglandin (this is a natural substance your body makes when you are witnessing pains). On the other hand, ibuprofen is known to block COX enzymes i.e., both COX – 1 as well as COX – 2 enzymes. This action is presumed to alleviate pains as well as swelling. The most popular brand names of ibuprofen are Advil, Motrin, Genpril, Midol, etc.

In some countries, acetaminophen is also known as paracetamol. The most popular brands available based on acetaminophen are Tylenol, Mapap, Apra, Aceta, etc. The key difference is: though acetaminophen works on COX enzymes, it is not categorised under NSAIDs like ibuprofen. This is mainly because the way by which acetaminophen works on these enzymes (and eventually on the making of prostaglandins) is quite different from the way ibuprofen works.

Last but not least, both these drugs are known to provide relief for almost the same duration of time. However, acetaminophen is relatively a short-acting med and owing to this, the relief it provides is almost instantaneous. This is one of the reasons why acetaminophen is not to be taken more frequently.

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