Fever

With a temperature above 98.6° F, headache, sweating, chills, dehydration, weakness, and aches and pains—you know you have a fever. Over-the-counter (OTC) fever reducers and pain relievers (also known as internal analgesics) are medicines that treat both fever and minor pain.

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. These come in a variety of different forms, including tablets, capsules, liquid solutions, and syrup.


Fever Treatments

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

NOTE: For information about the updated cardiovascular warning on non-aspirin NSAIDs packaging, click here.  

Before choosing an OTC medicine to treat your fever, you should first consider the type of symptoms you have and then determine the best course of treatment.

Consumers should be aware that 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. It is important to check your medicine labels and be sure to take only one medicine containing the same kind of active ingredient (acetaminophen or NSAID) at a time.

Check out this tool to learn more about the things you need to keep in mind when choosing and using an OTC pain reliever. And remember to always read and follow the Drug Facts label, and talk to your healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns before taking an OTC medicine to treat your pain or fever.

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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: