What's The Difference Between Aspirin And Acetaminophen?

When we feel sick or in pain, many of us open our cupboards or head to the store for pain medicine. Once we do, it can often be daunting choosing between the varieties of pain medicine before us. Two of the most popular pain medicines are acetaminophen (more commonly known as Tylenol) and aspirin. Have you ever wondered about the differences and similarities between these two medications, and which one is the best choice for you?

While aspirin and Tylenol are both effective against pain, Tylenol is an antipyretic (fever reducer) and analgesic (pain reliever), while aspirin is a NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). In addition to relieving pain and fever, aspirin can relieve inflammation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems such as stroke, heart attack, and blood clots (per RxList). For this reason, there is even research that suggests aspirin may reduce the risk of complications and death from COVID-19 (per WebMD).

Aspirin is more versatile than acetaminophen, but it's not for everyone

While Tylenol does not increase your risk of heart disease, it likely doesn't reduce it (per Science Daily). The same cannot be said for aspirin. Many NSAIDs can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues, but aspirin is an exception (via Mayo Clinic). According to Healthline, taking 160-325 milligrams of aspirin during a heart attack may reduce your risk of complications. Of course, you should waste no time in seeking medical attention first.

In addition, some doctors prescribe aspirin to prevent heart attacks in patients with cardiovascular disease. However, most healthy people have more to lose than gain from taking aspirin on a daily basis, so it is not something you should do without consulting your doctor.

Aspirin isn't for everyone; some people are allergic to it, and some people take medications that might interact with aspirin in a negative way. Of course, the same is true for Tylenol. According to Verywell Health, people who have liver disease should consult their doctor before using Tylenol. Meanwhile, experts at Healthline say that people are at higher risk of side effects from aspirin if they have bleeding disorders, have bleeding stomach ulcers, are at risk of hemorrhagic stroke, or are over the age of 70. Regular alcohol drinkers are at higher risk of side effects from both medications.

Which medication is right for you depends on your specific health needs, as well as any other medications you may be taking. If you're in doubt about which medication to choose, it never hurts to ask your doctor.