Is It Safe To Mix Ibuprofen And Acetaminophen?

Doctors have long warned about the dangers of mixing medications with alcohol, and some are even wary of prescribing multiple medications at a time. But what about the common, easily-accessible, over-the-counter (OTC) medications that any of us can pick up at the gas station or grocery store? Specifically, is it safe to mix ibuprofen (usually as Advil or Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol)?

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are both OTC drugs that are typically used for pain relief, but they work in somewhat different ways.

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works by blocking the production of prostaglandins throughout the body, which are a type of hormone involved in causing inflammation and pain in response to injury (via MedicineHow).

Researchers are not sure exactly how acetaminophen's pain-relieving effects work, but they suspect it is by blocking prostaglandin-forming enzymes in the brain (via

Since they work in different ways and in different parts of the body, ibuprofen and acetaminophen are commonly used together to provide more effective pain relief than either drug can provide alone, particularly for dental patients. However, the danger in mixing them is that it becomes easy to overdose on one or both medications.

When mixing acetaminophen and ibuprofen, watch the doses

The maximum 'safe' dose of acetaminophen is 4000 milligrams per day for those over 12 years old. But since the drug can cause liver damage at higher doses, pharmacists recommend a 'safer' limit of 3000 milligrams. Children and those with liver problems should take smaller doses, as directed by their doctor. Ibuprofen, on the other hand, has a maximum daily dose of 1200 milligrams per day for adults (via Healthline).

Many OTC medications contain varying doses of acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen, so read labels carefully to make sure you're not getting too much of either drug.

Concerns about overdosing, as well as the hazards of prescription opioids, have prompted the American Dental Association to call for a single, dose-controlled pain medication that includes both acetaminophen and ibuprofen. The new drug, Advil Dual Action, was recently approved by the FDA. Mia Geisinger, D.D.S., chair of the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs, says "Many...studies point to using non-steroidal medications with or without acetaminophen as being safe, effective and a preferred alternative to opioid medications in most patients. The introduction of this medication may simplify this medication protocol for use in dental practice and further reduce the use of opioid prescriptions as first-line pain control therapy."