Is Tylenol an NSAID?

Can Tylenol Be Taken With an NSAID?

Hand desperately reaching for pills.
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Tylenol (acetaminophen), NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and aspirin are over-the-counter pain relievers. Easy enough and readily available, right? But, that's also where it starts to get confusing. Is Tylenol an NSAID? Is aspirin an NSAID? Can Tylenol be taken with an NSAID?

Is Tylenol an NSAID? 

Tylenol is an analgesic medication. NSAIDs reduce inflammation. Tylenol is not classified as an NSAID.

Tylenol is indicated for mild to moderate pain and fever. Tylenol is primarily used for headache, muscle aches, arthritis, backache, toothache, cold, and fever. The exact mechanism of how Tylenol (acetaminophen) works has not been fully spelled out but we know it lacks the anti-inflammatory component which NSAIDs do have. Aspirin, on the other hand, is classified as an NSAID because it reduces pain, fever, and inflammation.

Because Tylenol is not an NSAID, the warnings that are associated with NSAIDs do not apply to Tylenol. For example, the heart risks and gastrointestinal warnings linked to NSAIDs do not apply to Tylenol. That is not to say that Tylenol has no risks, however. Acetaminophen or Tylenol is associated with risk of liver damage, especially with high dose or prolonged use. The safe upper limit of Tylenol is considered 3,250 milligrams per day, but that is approximate and may be too high for some people.

Drinking alcohol with Tylenol is ill-advised as that hikes the risk of liver damage.  

Can Tylenol Be Taken With an NSAID?

Can Tylenol and an NSAID be taken together? The short answer is yes—you can take an NSAID and acetaminophen together. That said, caution must still be used. NSAIDs can damage the kidneys and cause gastrointestinal bleeding if taken at high doses or for a long period of time.

Acetaminophen is metabolized in the liver. Prolonged use or excessive use of acetaminophen can result in liver failure. While the drugs are not without risks, they are considered safe and effective when taken according to directions and as prescribed by your doctor.

When Is the Combination a Bad Idea?

If you have renal (kidney) or hepatic (liver) disease, you should ask your doctor about taking acetaminophen and an NSAID together. Also, it's typically best practice to take the lowest dose of a drug that garners the desired therapeutic effect. By taking the lowest dose, you reduce the risk of unwanted side effects.

Of more concern than taking an NSAID and acetaminophen together is taking two different NSAIDs together which is not recommended. One NSAID at a time is appropriate use of the drug. If you are switching to a different NSAID, the one you had been taking must be stopped. With regard to acetaminophen, the cumulative dose is the major concern. Many people don't realize that acetaminophen can be an ingredient in over-the-counter cold and sinus remedies, as well as an ingredient in some narcotic medications. You must be aware of how much acetaminophen you are consuming in a day, with all products added together.

More About NSAIDs and Acetaminophen

All About Acetaminophen
Safe use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) decreases the risk of undesirable side effects. Safety warnings about Tylenol should be respected.

NSAIDs - 10 Things You Need to Know
NSAIDs have been used to treat arthritis for more than 30 years. NSAIDs have anti-inflammatory, analgesic (painkilling), and antipyretic (fever-reducing) properties.

What Is Extra Strength Tylenol?
Extra strength Tylenol is a popular over-the-counter medication used to relieve pain, including arthritis pain. How is extra strength Tylenol different from regular strength Tylenol or Tylenol Arthritis Pain?

What Is Tylenol Arthritis Pain?
Tylenol Arthritis Pain is a popular over-the-counter medication used to, as its name suggests, relieve arthritis pain. How is Tylenol Arthritis Pain different from regular strength Tylenol or extra strength Tylenol?

A Word From Verywell

With the initial onset of arthritis symptoms, it is typical for people to try to find relief at their local drugstore. Self-treatment is common early on, and as long as you don't push off going to the doctor for too long, it is appropriate. You will find Tylenol and its generic acetaminophen on drugstore shelves, as well as non-prescription strength NSAIDS (e.g., Aleve and Advil), and aspirin.

Be aware that even non-prescription pain relievers can cause adverse effects. You must follow directions and be mindful of warnings. Yes, even with over-the-counter pain relievers and that includes Tylenol and NSAIDs. 

Source:

11 Things You Should Know bout Common Pain Relievers. Harvard Health Publications. Updated October 9, 2015.

Buescher JJ et al. Do acetaminophen and an NSAID combined relieve osteoarthritis pain better than either alone? Journal of Family Practice. June 2004.

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