OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Annette (Gbemudu) Ogbru, PharmD, MBA

    Dr. Gbemudu received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Nova Southeastern University, her PharmD degree from University of Maryland, and MBA degree from University of Baltimore. She completed a one year post-doctoral fellowship with Rutgers University and Bristol Myers Squibb.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Surprising Reasons You're in Pain Slideshow

Introduction to OTC pain medication and fever reducers

Pain is the most common reason for people to seek medical advice, pain medicine is the most frequently purchased over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Fever is one of the most common reasons that children visit the doctor. Moreover, one in five emergency room visits for children is due to fever. Since OTC medicines that are effective in treating pain also are effective at reducing fever, they will be considered together in this article.

What are the classifications of pain?

Pain can be classified as acute, chronic non-malignant, chronic malignant. Headaches are the most common cause of pain and can be considered a separate class of pain.

Acute pain

Acute pain is experienced by everyone; it is usually short in duration with an identifiable pathology, a predictable prognosis, and treatment that usually includes analgesics. Acute pain is most often due to injuries. Examples of injuries include:

  • muscle soreness due to overuse, sprains or strains, or viral infections,
  • tears of the ligaments,
  • broken bones,
  • bruises, and
  • cuts.

Acute pain from such injuries can respond well to OTC pain medication. Muscle soreness also may respond well to heat and massage.

Chronic non-malignant pain

Chronic non-malignant pain often begins as acute pain, but it continues beyond the typical time expected for resolution of the problem or persists or recurs for other reasons. It is a type of pain associated with progressive, debilitating diseases such as arthritis. Treatment for chronic non-malignant pain can include OTC medications . However, because of the chronic nature of the pain, regular use of OTC medications can lead to side effects.

Chronic malignant pain

Chronic malignant pain is pain associated with advanced, progressive diseases (often fatal) such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and terminal kidney disease. OTC medications for pain may be useful for the management of chronic malignant pain. However, stronger prescription medications are usually necessary.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/9/2015

Quick GuideChronic Pain: Causes, Solutions and Management

Chronic Pain: Causes, Solutions and Management
FDA Logo

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

RxList Logo

Need help identifying pills and medications?

Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors