There are three major medication categories available OTC to treat pain and fever;
  1. acetaminophen
  2. nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  3. aspirin.
Although these three categories of drugs are also used to treat the pain of minor trauma, using RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) are easy first steps in the treatment for minor injuries, especially the pain associated with sprains and strains.


Acetaminophen is the most commonly recommended over-the-counter medication for a fever. It works well for minor aches and pains as well, especially for people who cannot tolerate anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin. As always, you should read the labels in regard to the recommended dosing of each medication. This is especially true with infants and children, where the proper dosage depends upon the weight of the infant or child.

When it comes to an adult, the maximum dose of acetaminophen per day is 4 grams to prevent the complication of liver damage. Many cold medications contain acetaminophen as one of several other ingredients and to prevent taking too much, you should read the labels carefully. Because of the possibility of liver toxicity, acetaminophen should be avoided in patients with liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis. There are several brands and generic names for acetaminophen.

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to treat inflammation, fever, and pain are available over-the-counter. OTC ibuprofen is often recommended by health care practitioners to decrease pain and inflammation from minor injuries. Ibuprofen is also frequently recommended for the treatment of fever in all age groups.

NSAIDs should not be taken by individuals with kidney disease, or those who have a history of bleeding from the stomach and bowels, as NSAIDS are removed from the body by the kidneys and may increase bleeding in the stomach or bowels. 

Salicylic Acid or Aspirin

Salicylic acid or aspirin is a well-known medication that has been recommended for generations as a treatment for pain, inflammation, and fever. It is also a first-line treatment in the prevention of heart attack and stroke because of its anti-blood-clotting properties by making platelets in the bloodstream less sticky.

Aspirin should not be taken by children younger than 14 years of age. Some individuals may need to take large amounts of aspirin to manage pain from arthritis, but high doses of aspirin can cause major complications. Aspirin can cause irritation of the stomach and may lead to ulcers and bleeding. Individuals with a history of ulcers or other stomach problems should not take aspirin, and those who take blood thinners should use caution when taking aspirin at the same time, as the probability for inappropriate bleeding is increased. There are several brands and generic names for aspirin. 

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