two white pills in the palm

If you have aches, pain or a fever, you may wonder whether to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. While these two medications offer similar relief, there are several key differences.


Commonly known by the brand name Tylenol, acetaminophen is an analgesic and antipyretic drug. This means it relieves pain and fever. Potential side effects of this over-the-counter medication include nausea and headache. Since acetaminophen is broken down by the liver, you should avoid taking it if you have liver problems.


Commonly known by the brand names Advil and Motrin, ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug with analgesic and antipyretic properties. This means it reduces swelling and inflammation in addition to relieving pain and fever. You should avoid taking ibuprofen if you have high blood pressure or problems with your heart, stomach or kidneys.

Which to choose?

If you have a headache or fever, both acetaminophen and ibuprofen will offer relief. If you have menstrual cramps, you’ll likely find ibuprofen to be more effective. It’s also a better choice if you have a toothache or sprain.

Remember to carefully read the label before taking any medication to avoid dangerous interactions with other drugs, supplements and herbs. It’s also essential to not exceed the maximum daily dosage and not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for longer than recommended. An overdose can lead to serious health problems such as liver and kidney damage.

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