OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers (cont.)

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Sinus headache

A sinus headache is caused by inflammation or an infection or blockage of one or more sinuses. The pain often is limited to the area around the eyes or the forehead. The pain may occur upon awakening, and may decrease in intensity after the person stands or sits up for a period of time. In addition to analgesics, OTC decongestants can be effective to help drain the sinuses.

What causes fever?

Most fevers last only a few hours or days and are not dangerous; however, they may cause a great deal of discomfort. A rectal temperature of greater than 101.8 F (38.8 C), an oral temperature of more than 100 F (37.8 C), or an armpit temperature of greater than 99 F (37.2 C) is considered significantly abnormal. Fevers are usually due to viral or bacterial infections; however, they also can be due to cancers, injury to tissue (for example, heart attacks), hyperthyroidism, other illnesses in which there is inflammation, and dehydration. Additionally, many different drugs have been reported to cause "drug fever."

Harmful effects of fever (for example, dehydration, changes in consciousness, seizures, or coma) are likely to occur at temperatures above 106 F. Lower fevers can be dangerous in persons with heart disease, since fever increases the effort required by the heart to pump blood.

Two percent to four percent of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years (usually before age 3) with high fevers will experience febrile seizures; though these seizures generally last no more than 15 minutes. Moreover, children who experience febrile seizures have a higher risk of developing epilepsy later in life.

What are the different classes OTC pain relievers and fever reducers?

The three classes of OTC analgesic/antipyretic medications are:

  • Salicylates: aspirin (also called acetylsalicylic acid or ASA), choline salicylate, magnesium salicylate, and sodium salicylate;
  • Acetaminophen
  • Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and ketoprofen. (Aspirin is also an NSAID, but it is considered separately from the other NSAIDs because it has some unique properties.) Each of these drugs is discussed in detail below.

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