Pain & Fever

Pain & Fever Facts

Headache, backache, muscle aches, toothache, menstrual cramps, arthritis, and aches and pains—you know when you’re in pain. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and fever reducers (also known as internal analgesics) are medicines that treat both fever and minor pain. Some pain relievers are also labeled for the treatment of migraines.

There are two different categories of analgesics: internal and external. Internal analgesics are pain relievers and fever reducers. These medicines are intended for internal use and are either taken by mouth in the form of pills and liquids or inserted into the rectum in suppository form. External analgesics are topical pain relievers and are not intended to reduce fever. These medicines are for external use only and are applied directly to the outer surface of the body in lotions, sprays, and other forms. Before choosing an OTC analgesic medicine, you should first consider the type of symptoms you have and then determine the best course of treatment.


Pain & Fever Treatments

There are two basic types of OTC medicines that work as pain relievers or fever reducers:

  • Acetaminophen, which is also the name of the active ingredient
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include the following active ingredients:

Pain-reliever and fever-reducer active ingredients may also be found in medicines that treat multiple symptoms of the common cold, sleeplessness, or symptoms related to menstruation.

  • Always read the Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine, including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the product.
  • Do not take an NSAID for longer than what the label instructs unless you are under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider before using more than one pain reliever/fever reducer at the same time.
  • Stop use and contact your healthcare provider if your fever gets worse or lasts more than three days, or if your pain gets worse or lasts more than 10 days.
  • If you have signs of stomach bleeding, such as feeling faint, vomiting blood, bloody or black stools, or stomach pain that does not get better, contact your healthcare provider.
  • If a severe allergic reaction occurs and you experience symptoms such as hives, facial swelling, asthma (wheezing), shock, skin reddening, rash, or blisters, immediately seek medical attention.
  • Do not take more medicine or for a longer period of time than what the label recommends unless you are under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
  • Ask a healthcare provider before use if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, liver cirrhosis, or kidney disease.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to a healthcare provider before using an NSAID.
  • If you are a woman in the last three months of pregnancy, do not use an NSAID unless you are specifically told to do so by a healthcare provider.