How to use non-prescription pain relievers

Collective Knowledge How to safely use non-prescription pain relievers

How to use non-prescription pain relievers.

There are lots of oral non-prescription products available to treat pain, and when choosing a product there are two main things to consider:

How well they work. Non-prescription pain relievers like  paracetamol are effective in treating mild-to-moderate pain.1

How suitable they are. All non-prescription r pain relievers are generally well tolerated, but not every pain reliever is right for everyone. Some people need to take particular care when it comes to choosing the right analgesic for them.

This article takes a closer look at some of the suitability issues you should consider when selecting a pain reliever.

A question of age

The age of the person needing pain relief is an important factor to consider when choosing a pain reliever. Care needs to be taken when giving any medication to children, as the way they respond to medication can be different to the way that adults react.

Generally, Paracetamol is used for pain relief in children. It is effective in relieving pain and body ache in children, including severe body ache. In children, all medication should be given under medical supervision.

Older people also need to take care when choosing a pain reliever. As we age, our bodies don’t work as well as they used to. In addition to suffering from health problems, such as aching joints or heart disease, it also makes us more likely to experience side effects when taking another medication.

 For older people, it’s important to choose a pain reliever that has minimal side effects and can be taken with a medication that they may need for other health problems. Paracetamol is recommended as the pain reliever of choice for older people because of its efficacy and safety.

Other health problems

It is also important to consider any other health problems when choosing a non-prescription pain reliever.

Stomach problems. If you have a stomach ulcer or have had a stomach ulcer in the past, you can use paracetamol for pain relief.

Heart and high blood pressure problems. Paracetamol may be a suitable choice for people with heart or high blood pressure problems.

Inflammatory bowel disease. The medical conditions ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can be made worse by taking some pain relievers,9 so speak to a doctor or pharmacist for advice. Paracetamol may be suitable.

Asthma. Can trigger an asthma Paracetamol may be a suitable option in asthma.

Bleeding problems.  Anyone with a medical condition that increases the risk of bleeding, may need to take care before taking some pain relievers1 That’s because they can affect the way the blood clots.

Paracetamol may be suitable for you. However, if you have to take blood-thinning medication, it’s best to speak to your doctor or pharmacist as all pain relievers can affect the way some of these medicines work.

Kidney problems. Pain relievers have the potential to affect the way your kidneys function, so it’s best to speak to your doctor or pharmacist for advice regarding serious kidney problems.1

Liver problems. Take care to consult a doctor or pharmacist for advice about severe liver problems, as pain reliever shave the potential to affect the way the liver functions.1

Only use pain relievers as directed and follow the product label at all times.

Pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, it’s best not to take any medication as there is a risk that the medication may be passed on to the unborn baby and cause problems. Aspirin should be avoided in pregnancy and cannot be used in the last three months of pregnancy.10 Paracetamol can be used but, like all medication taken during pregnancy, you should speak to your doctor, pharmacist or midwife for advice first.

Taking other medication?

Other medication can interact with pain relievers, affect the way they work, or lead to side effects.

Paracetamol interacts with:

  • Blood-thinning medications, if taken every day. Taking the occasional paracetamol dose has no effect on blood-thinning medications.

Aspirin interacts with:

  •  Other NSAIDs
  •  Steroid medication
  •  Drugs to reduce blood pressure and water retention
  •  Some antibiotics
  •  Blood-thinning medications
  •  Some anti-depressant medications
  •  Some heart drugs
  •  Some cancer-treating medications
  •  Some anti-HIV drugs.

It’s important to find a pain reliever that eases pain and without causing other problems. Always read the label of your medication to make sure the pain reliever is suitable. If you’re still not sure, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.



  1. Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference. 37th Edition, April 2011.
  2. Children’s British National Formulary 2010-2011.
  3. NHS Choices. Reye’s Syndrome.
  4. Walson PD, et al. Comparison of multidose ibuprofen and acetaminophen therapy in febrile children. AJDC 1992; 142:626-632.
  5. Autret-Leca E, Gibb IA, Goulder MA. Ibuprofen versus paracetamol in pediatric fever: objective and subjective findings from a randomized, blinded study. Curr Med Res Opin 2007; 23: 2205-2211.
  6. Schachtel BP, Thoden WR. A placebo-controlled model for assaying systemic analgesics in children. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1993; 53:593-601.
  7. Nurofen for Children UK Summary of Product Characteristics.
  8. American Geriatrics Society Panel on the pharmacological management of persistent pain in older persons. Pharmacological management of persistent pain in older persons. JAGS, 2009; 57:1331-1346.
  9. Nurofen Summary of Product Characteristics.
  10. Jenkins C, et al. Systematic review of prevalence of aspirin induced asthma and its implications for clinical practice. BMJ, 2004; 328:434.