How do Aspirin and Acetaminophen Differ

Aspirin and acetaminophen are very similar in nature. The other name that acetaminophen is known by is paracetamol. Acetaminophen is a very powerful pain reliever. Since the 19th century, both aspirin and acetaminophen have been used for headache pain relief. Although aspirin and acetaminophen contain many of the same compounds, there are some significant differences between them. This results in them being used by people based on their individual needs.

For instance, aspirin can stop pain by reducing the amount of a hormone, prostaglandin, in the body. Prostaglandin is present where ever there is an inflammation, especially during an injury of some sort. If you hit your arm or smash a finger, the area may immediately begin to swell and throb. The swelling is the result of your body attempting to treat the problem by increasing blood supply to the area around the tissue that has been affected. It is the production of prostaglandins that send signals to the nerve endings causing you to feel pain.

Acetaminophen, on the other hand, isn’t a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) drug like aspirin, so it isn’t going to do much good for you in the way of reducing pain that is associated with inflammation. If you have that type of injury then you will need to use aspirin, not acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen is safe for women to use all through their pregnancy, though, so that is a good time to switch from ibuprofen. With some particular diseases such as Reye’s Syndrome, acetaminophen is a safe product to use, but aspirin can create more side effects than relief for the individual.

Many people find that acetaminophen doesn’t upset their stomach as aspirin does when they take it for headache relief. Acetaminophen also doesn’t affect the kidneys in the same way. Aspirin is known to thin the blood so it is a great choice as a daily supplement to prevent heart attacks. However, too much aspirin in the system can prevent the body from being able to clot and stop bleeding from a cut, injury,or a nose bleed.

There are some risks associated with acetaminophen that need to be considered, though. These risks mainly occur when high doses of acetaminophen are consumed. If you consume acetaminophen on a daily basis, you may suffer from headaches, liver damage and even death if you consume too much of it. While this isn’t a normal occurrence, it can happen. In most instances, it is the result of taking acetaminophen with alcohol.

There are some common side effects that you need to pay attention to with regard to taking acetaminophen for headache relief. These side effects include black or bloody stools, rash and the onset of a sore throat. Some individuals experience white spots in their mouth as well. It is generally safe to take acetaminophen and other over-the-counter medications. If you have a fever or headache that doesn’t go away with the use of over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or aspirin, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor.

Page Updated: November 12, 2016
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