Pain and Fever

NSAID Cardiovascular 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. Click here

Let’s face it, nobody likes to be in pain or sick with a fever. With a temperature above 98.6° F, headache, sweating, chills, dehydration, weakness, and aches and pains—you know you have a fever. And when you’ve overexerted yourself at the gym, your sore muscles may be in need of pain relief. Luckily there are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to help you treat your symptoms called internal and external analgesics.

Internal Analgesics

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.

OTC pain relievers

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
    Excedrin®, Feverall®, Goody’s®, Midol®
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include the following active ingredients:

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.

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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Safe Use Tips for Internal Analgesics

  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • If you think you have taken or given too much of a medicine, immediately contact your healthcare provider or the national poison control helpline at 888.222.1222.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your healthcare provider before use.

Topical Pain Relievers

Topical pain relievers, or external analgesics, are a group of different medicines that are used “externally,” which means on the skin. Depending on the active ingredients, topical pain relievers are intended to treat a number of different conditions, including inflammation, minor body aches and pains, sunburn and other minor burns, and itching and skin irritations due to eczema, contact allergies, and insect bites. Many products are available to consumers over the counter in spray, lotion, cream, gel, ointment, patch, and medicated wipe form.

OTC topical pain relievers

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Safe Use Tips for External Analgesics

  • 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 more medicine or for a longer period of time than what the label recommends unless you are under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your healthcare provider before use.
  • Topical pain relievers should only be applied to the outer surface of your body. In case you accidentally swallow a product, immediately contact your healthcare provider or the national poison control helpline at 888.222.1222.
  • When applying a spray, lotion, cream, gel, or ointment, avoid getting the product into your eyes. Stop using the medicine if skin irritation develops.
  • Do not apply topical pain relievers to wounds or damaged skin.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider before using an OTC topical pain reliever containing benzocaine, camphor, diphenhydramine, hydrocortisone, lidocaine, menthol, or pramoxine in a child age 2 and under.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider before using an OTC topical pain reliever containing methyl salicylate or trolamine salicylate in a child age 12 and under.