What Are Some OTC Drugs?


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Over-the-counter painkillers include acetaminophen, sold as Tylenol, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen, or Advil and Motrin, and naproxen, brand name Aleve, according to MedlinePlus. Popular antihistamines used to treat allergies include Benadryl, Allegra and Zyrtec. Cold medicines include oral decongestant pseudoephedrine, or Sudafed; dyclonine in spray form to relieve sore throat, sold as Cepacol; and the dextromethorphan used in liquid cough medicines, such as Vicks 44 and Robitussin DM, to suppress coughs.

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Acetaminophen reduces pain and fever by affecting the region of the brain responsible for pain perception and body temperature regulation, but it does not contain anti-inflammatory properties, explains WebMD. While Tylenol treats arthritis pain and headaches, it is not effective for reducing swelling. Although it is gentler on the stomach than other OTC painkillers, individuals who take over 4,000 milligrams per day of acetaminophen have an increased risk of liver damage. Because it is a common ingredient found in over 600 medicines, users should check labels carefully, since acetaminophen is often contained in popular OTC cold and flu remedies.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, reduce pain, fever and the swelling caused by inflammation by lowering the prostaglandins that irritate nerve endings, reports WebMD. Ibuprofen treats menstrual cramps, backaches, toothaches, muscle sprains and gout. Individuals who take NSAIDs for prolonged periods of time increase their risk for a cardiovascular event, especially if they smoke, have high blood pressure or have a genetic predisposition for heart disease. Both ibuprofen and naproxen can cause stomach bleeding in certain individuals, but as of 2015, research indicates that naproxen may be a safer choice for individuals with heart disease risk than ibuprofen.

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