Topical over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, or external analgesics, are medicines that are applied and absorbed through the skin. Depending on the active ingredient, these pain relievers are intended to treat a number of different conditions, including inflammation, minor body aches/pains, sunburn/other minor burns, itching, and some skin irritations.
The good news is there are many OTC pain management products available that do not require a doctor’s prescription. These products also come in many different forms, which can help provide you with fast, effective relief. But which one do you choose? Let’s take a look at your options.
Types of topical OTC pain relievers:
- Benzocaine | Americaine®, Lanacane®
- Capsaicin | Capzasin®, ZOSTRIX®
- Diclofenac sodium | Voltaren®
- Lidocaine | Aspercreme®, Salonpas®
- Menthol | Absorbine Jr.®, BENGAY®, Blistex®, Deep Heating®, GOLD BOND®, Icy Hot®, Salonpas®, Vicks®
- Methyl Salicylate | BENGAY®, Deep Heating®, Flexall®, Icy Hot®, Salonpas®, Satogesic®, THERA-GESIC®
Safe use tips for topical OTC pain relievers
Always read and follow 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 apply more or for a longer period of time than what the label recommends unless you are under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
- Only apply to the outer surface of the body. Do not apply topical pain relievers to wounds or damaged skin. Stop using topical medicines if skin irritation develops. Avoid getting the product in your eyes.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional before use.
- Talk to a healthcare professional 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 professional before using an OTC topical pain reliever containing methyl salicylate or trolamine salicylate in a child age 12 and under.
- Talk to a healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns about which OTC pain reliever to take.