Every week, Edwin de Vaal (48), general practitioner in Nijmegen, answers a frequently asked or striking question from his practice. This week it is: what’s the difference between paracetamol and ibuprofen?
Paracetamol or ibuprofen… That’s the same, isn’t it? Both painkillers?
“They are indeed both painkillers. But they differ considerably in terms of active ingredients, effect and side effects.”
What’s the difference then?
“Ibuprofen belongs to the NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, ed.). These include diclofenac and naproxen, for example. NSAIDs are analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory. Paracetamol is also analgesic and fever-reducing, but not anti-inflammatory.”
“Pain is a signal that something is wrong. Headaches can have various causes: bad posture, stress, too little fluid or a hangover. ”
Edwin de Vaal, general practitioner
When do you take what if you have a headache?
“First of all, be aware that pain is a signal from the body. It is a signal that something is wrong. For example, headache can have various causes: poor posture, stress, too little fluid or a hangover. A painkiller. takes away the pain, but not the cause of it. So always try to find out what is causing your pain. “
“If you have a ‘normal’ headache or toothache that occurs once and is therefore not chronic, always choose paracetamol first and not immediately ibuprofen. Paracetamol works just as well and has virtually no side effects.”
“Yes. Many people do not know that NSAIDs can cause stomach complaints. In people over sixty it can even cause stomach bleeding. That is why we prescribe a stomach protector as standard.”
“If you are otherwise healthy and you are not using any other medicines, then there is in principle no problem, but it cannot hurt to consult your doctor. NSAIDs can also have an effect on your liver, kidneys and blood pressure. They often go wrong. in addition, it does not combine well with other medicines. “
Are there any ‘house-yard-and-kitchen’ pains where an NSAID is a good choice?
“Yes, think of menstrual abdominal pain or if you have fallen and everything is bruised. Ibuprofen works differently on the pain receptors than paracetamol. It gives more relief for menstrual abdominal pain than paracetamol. But do not use it for too long.”
Are there other things we should know about pain pills?
“Always stick to the guidelines on the package. Do not use more than the recommended amount. Paracetamol is usually the first choice, as mentioned. Start with two tablets of 500 mg or one of 1000 mg, dissolved in water. Repeat this every eight hours. . “
“If that does not work well enough, add ibuprofen. Do not replace the paracetamol with ibuprofen. If you notice that your pain does not go away and you always need pain relief, please contact your doctor.”