What Is the Difference between Aspirin and Paracetamol?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2017
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Aspirin and paracetamol both act to reduce pain and lower fever, but are active in different areas of the body and provide different additional benefits. Aspirin will also limit inflammation and provides anti-clotting properties, while paracetamol does not offer these benefits. The best drug to take depends on the patient and the situation. Both medications are readily available through pharmacies, and patients may want to talk to the doctor about the most suitable drug for their needs.

Also known as acetaminophen, paracetamol is a prostaglandin inhibitor and works by limiting the production of cyclooxygenase, a chemical compound the body uses to send pain signals. Aspirin is also a prostaglandin inhibitor, but acts on different compounds like thromboxanes.

Both aspirin and paracetamol will block pain signals and make patients feel more comfortable. Paracetamol acts primarily on receptors for pain in the central nervous system and will block the signal before it reaches the brain. Aspirin acts locally at the site of the pain to stop it from producing pain signals. It will also reduce inflammation, if any inflammatory reaction is present. Fever will drop with both medications in patients who have developed a temperature.

Aspirin tends to be harder on the gastrointestinal tract than paracetamol, which can be a cause for concern in patients with stomach problems. Both aspirin and paracetamol can potentially be dangerous for the liver if taken in large amounts. Patients must take care when measuring out doses and timing them to make sure they get enough medication but do not endanger their livers. If a patient does overdose, rapid treatment in a hospital is necessary.

For issues like headaches, paracetamol can be a better choice, as it will block the pain and make the patient feel more comfortable, without gastrointestinal side effects. Aspirin may be the best option when a patient has inflammation as well, as the drug will treat the cause of the pain and block the signals at the same time. Patients weighing aspirin and paracetamol to decide on the best drug should consider whether they need anti-inflammatory properties in their medication.

Patients may take aspirin in the long term as a therapeutic measure to prevent the development of blood clots. Aspirin therapy should be followed under medical supervision only, and it is important to be aware that the drug will not address pain and inflammation, only reduce the susceptibility to clotting. Higher doses will be necessary to treat pain.

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Oceana
Post 4

@lighth0se33 – That is bizarre! It sounds like you need to take aspirin to bring down the swelling that paracetamol has caused! Since even your doctor doesn't know why it happens, it's probably best that you use aspirin instead.

I have a kidney condition, so I have to be careful about how much paracetamol I take, and I'm not supposed to take aspirin at all. Since I rarely have aches and pains, I don't think I'm taking enough paracetamol to do any damage to my kidneys, though.

My stronger prescription pain pills actually contain paracetamol. I take these whenever one of my kidney cysts bursts, because this causes intense pain. However, this happens maybe once or twice a year, so I believe I'm safe from getting an overdose of paracetamol.

lighth0se33
Post 3

I always take buffered aspirin so that I don't get stomach irritation from it. I often get headaches, and since I have issues with taking paracetamol, I reach for the aspirin.

Paracetamol causes a really weird side effect in me that even my doctor finds strange. The morning after the day that I take it, I wake up with a slightly sore throat. It almost feels as though it is barely swollen, and it is uncomfortable to swallow.

My doctor doesn't seem to think I am allergic to it, since my reaction isn't severe. Has anyone else here ever heard of having such a reaction to paracetamol? I would really love to know why this happens.

shell4life
Post 2

@OeKc05 – I would rather take aspirin, too. I have taken paracetamol by itself for a headache before, and it did nothing to help me.

The one thing that it has worked for is a sore throat. It does seem to reduce the pain a little for about four hours, making it easier to swallow.

It is also pretty effective at bringing down my fever. However, if I have any sort of swollen joints or muscles, I take aspirin, since it can bring down the swelling.

I once got stung by a wasp, and I took both an antihistamine and aspirin. This kept the area from swelling into a huge knot while working on the pain.

OeKc05
Post 1

I never knew that paracetamol and aspirin were so different. It sounds to me that in most situations, aspirin would be the better choice.

Since it works to relieve pain at the site of its cause, it seems more efficient. It sounds like paracetamol just tricks the brain into ignoring pain signals, while aspirin reduces actual swelling.

I guess that people with certain health conditions would have to settle for paracetamol, though. It's probably better than not taking anything at all for pain.

When I have taken paracetamol in the past, it has been mixed with other substances, such as allergy medication and cough syrup. I don't even know how effective the drug would be by itself.

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