Reduce the Pain, Choose the Right Medication

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 8:00 AM comments (0)

aspirinIt can be challenging to choose the right over-the-counter pain medication. While the choices are many, it’s very important to make a decision based on your symptoms and other medical issues. Not all pain relievers are created equal, and knowing the difference between various types can be very helpful.

Before taking any medication, you should consult with your physician and/or pharmacist. Additionally, you should carefully read labels for warnings and other information. This is especially true for combination products used for treating pain and other conditions, such as colds, allergies, arthritis and muscle aches.

Acetaminophen and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used over-the-counter pain medications. The main difference between the two is that NSAIDs help reduce pain, fever and inflammation. Acetaminophen only reduces pain and fever.

George Carro, Pharmacist at NorthShore Evanston Hospital, helps clarify the differences between these common over-the-counter pain relievers to help you make a better, more-informed decision:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) tends to be milder on the stomach. Keep in mind that acetaminophen will not help with inflammation. Acetaminophen is an active ingredient in many other medications, including cold and flu preparations. Be sure to read all labels carefully so you do not exceed the recommended maximum daily dose of acetaminophen.
Safe for Children? Acetaminophen is generally considered safe for use in children. Always be sure to confirm proper usage and dosing information with your pediatrician.
Side Effects? Liver toxicity, including liver damage and failure, can be associated with improper use of this drug.  Alcohol consumption in combination with acetaminophen use may increase this risk.

NSAIDs—Aspirin (Bayer®), Ibuprofen (Advil ®or Motrin®), Naproxen (Aleve®) and others—can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Safe for Children? As with any drug for children, it is recommended to discuss proper usage and dosing information with your pediatrician. Please consider the following for use in children:

  • Aspirin should not be used in children under the age of 16 years. It has been associated with Reyes’s syndrome, a potentially fatal disease in children.
  • Ibuprofen is not recommended for use in children under the age of 6 months.
  • Naproxen is not recommended for use in children under the age of 12 years.

Side Effects? The most common side effects include stomach and kidney problems. It is recommended to take all NSAIDs with food to help minimize stomach irritation. If you have heart conditions, stomach ulcers or blood disorders, please consult with your physician before taking these medications.

No drug—prescription or over-the-counter—is without risks. Always consult with your physician if you have any questions or concerns about your medications. Our NorthShore pharmacists can also answer questions and help you make informed, over-the-counter pain reliever selections.

What’s Triggering Your Headaches?

Friday, August 23, 2013 12:00 PM comments (0)

headachesHeadaches can be more than just a pain, interrupting your day-to-day life and making it difficult to concentrate on even the simplest tasks. The key to finding your way through the pain could be determining its type and trigger. 

There are many types of headaches and they vary in severity from person to person and type to type:

  1. Tension. Sometimes referred to as an “everyday” headache, they are the most common type and usually manifest as a constant ache around the head, at the temples or the back of the neck.
  2. Cluster. These are recurring headaches that come in cycles. They begin suddenly, and can be severe and often debilitating.
  3. Migraine. Migraines are severe headaches that can last between 4 and 72 hours. The pain is often exhibited on one side of the head. Migraine sufferers report sensitivity to light and sound, and often nausea and/or vomiting. 

What could be triggering your headaches? Steven Meyers, MD, Neurologist and Head of the Headache Program at NorthShore, discusses some common headache triggers:

  • Hormone level fluctuations. This most often occurs for women during menstruation. During menstruation, hormone levels can increase and drop dramatically, causing headache and migraine.
  • Sleep. When and how long you sleep can be very important. Disruption to your sleep pattern, irregular hours, too little or too much sleep can all cause headaches. Avoid changes in your sleep pattern when possible, and this includes oversleeping on the weekends.
  • Diet. Common foods, drinks and additives can cause headache pain. To determine your food sensitivities, keep a diary of your headaches and what you eat. By eliminating the food, you could decrease the frequency and severity of your headaches. If you suffer migraines, keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
  • Caffeine. Small amounts of caffeine can help when you have a headache but frequent and excessive consumption can cause and even worsen headaches.
  • Stress. Stress levels can make a big impact on your health. Reducing stress levels can reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Try exercise, stretching and relaxation techniques like meditation. 
  • Weather. Headaches can be triggered by changes in weather patterns in some particularly sensitive people. There is not much that can be done when it comes to weather but anticipating these changes and taking preventative measures could help.

Do you suffer from headaches? Do you know your headache triggers?

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