Pain & Fever

*Do you have questions about the updated cardiovascular warning on non-aspirin NSAIDs packaging?

UPDATED LABEL WARNING: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended the existing cardiovascular warning on non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including the active ingredients ibuprofen, ketoprofen (Rx only), magnesium salicylate, and naproxen sodium to state that these medicines can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. The risk is higher if you use more than directed or for longer than directed. The updated warning does not apply to aspirin. The change was first applied to prescription products and a similar change is now appearing on over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs Drug Facts labels, with the exception of aspirin.

To ensure you are safely using non-aspirin OTC NSAIDs to treat your minor pain and fever, read and follow the Drug Facts label and talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions. Also, consumers should be aware that NSAIDs are an active ingredient in many medicines – both prescription and OTC – and ensure they aren’t inadvertently taking more than the recommended dose.

Find more information about safe use of OTC NSAIDs below.

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.

Some pain relievers are available as topical products (products applied to the skin, rather than ingested) whereas internal analgesics are pain relievers and fever reducers.

  • 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, rather than ingested.
  • Internal analgesics 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.

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:

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.

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  • 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 doctor.
  • If you take low-dose aspirin for protection against heart attack and stroke, be aware that some NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, may interfere.

Not all products marketed under a brand contain the same ingredients. Please read the Drug Facts label carefully for active ingredient information. If you have questions about any of the medicines you are taking or if you have any unexpected side effects, talk to a healthcare provider. Keep all medicines up and away and out of sight of children.

To learn more about using, storing, and disposing of pain medicines safely, watch these short films by the Alliance for Aging research: