Keeping Tabs on Your Tablets

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are staple items in most medicine stashes. But new research sheds light on some inherent risks of taking these over-the-counter drugs. Before you pop your next gel cap, consider these concerns:

The FDA issued new recommendations for warnings and dose restrictions on acetaminophen (Tylenol) products regarding the increased risk for liver damage. Many combination products include the drug, so patients may inadvertently exceed appropriate amounts. If you suffer from liver problems, talk to your doctor before taking acetaminophen, and always follow the dosage limits. Read the fine print on other medications you’re taking to learn if they contain the drug.

A report in the Annals of Renal Medicine found that osteoarthritis patients are 9 times more likely to suffer a heart attack if they take ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, Motrin) along with aspirin. Long-term use or high doses can also lead to gastrointestinal bleeding. And while the anti-inflammatory is effective in pain management, new research suggests it may hinder the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. So avoid using it to lower fever in standard illnesses. For minor injuries, defer to natural methods, like cold compresses, for reducing inflammation and controlling pain.

In both cases, avoid the “maximum” and “extra-strength” versions, sticking to the lowest potency possible.

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