What's the Difference Between Tylenol and Aspirin?
Credit: Pills photo via Shutterstock

"The Healthy Geezer" answers questions about health and aging in his weekly column.

Question: What is the difference between Tylenol and aspirin?

Answer: Acetaminophen is the most widely used pain-reliever and fever-reducer in the world. It is contained in more than 100 products.

Tylenol is the best known over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen product. It is also a component of well-known prescription drugs such as Darvocet and Percocet. Acetaminophen also is known as paracetamol and N-acetyl-p-aminophenol (APAP).

There are basically two types of OTC pain relievers. Some contain acetaminophen, which is processed in the liver. Others contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are processed elsewhere. Examples of OTC NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

Taking too much acetaminophen can lead to liver damage. The risk for liver damage may be increased if you drink three or more alcoholic drinks while using medicines that contain acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen is one of the most common pharmaceutical agents involved in overdose, as reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

NSAIDs are associated with stomach distress. You should talk to your doctor before using NSAIDS if you are over 60, taking prescription blood thinners, or have stomach ulcers or other bleeding problems.

NSAIDs can also cause reversible damage to the kidneys. The risk of kidney damage may increase in people who are over 60, have high blood pressure, heart disease or pre-existing kidney disease and people who are taking a diuretic.

It's a good idea for all older adults to consult their doctors before taking any OTC medication.

If you would like to read more columns, you can get a copy of "How to be a Healthy Geezer" at http://www.healthygeezer.com.

All rights reserved © 2012 by Fred Cicetti

More from the Healthy Geezer: