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Spoilt for Choice: A Guide to Painkillers

Imagine this.

You are standing looking at a shelf full of painkillers. Your child is at home feeling very miserable and you need something to make them feel better. But when you see ten thousand different options, it can become crippling. Panadol Panamax or Nurofen? Is there one made specifically for children? What about for boys? What about boys who are fascinated by dinosaurs? I would like to provide you with a helpful guide to painkillers so that you don’t develop a headache of your own when trying to make the best choice possible.

Paracetamol

Many of the painkillers which you purchase over the counter use paracetamol as their base ingredient. Panadol panamax and mandanol are some of the more well known products which fall into this category. Interestingly enough, the research has yet to confirm exactly how and why paracetamol actually works. Some studies suggest that it blocks pain receptors from reaching your nervous system and your brain. It has shown itself to be highly effective when combating a fever, and although it may reduce the pain felt as a result of inflammation, it does very little to actually reduce swelling. It was first used in the 1890s before becoming a staple on pharmacy shelves in the 50 and 60s, so even though it isn’t entirely understood, it has established itself as one of the safest most effective painkillers through sheer volume of numbers alone. The only possible side effect from taking paracetamol is liver damage. This generally needs fairly exorbitant dosages and couldn’t really be done accidentally. This liver damage would unfold over many years, and there are relatively few cases of paracetamol overdose.

Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

These are often abbreviated as NSAIDs, and include medicines such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen or Aspirin. Like paracetamol, NSAIDs block the cyclo-oxygenase enzymes from reaching your brain and central nervous system. Essentially, this means that your brain simply fails to register how much pain you are experiencing. This is incredibly good news when you’re feeling under the weather. But it gets even better. Unlike panadol panamax and other paracetamol products, NSAIDS actually work to reduce the inflammation which is causing the pain masking the pain receptors. Think of it like this: There is a fire burning part of your house. Paracetamol tells you there is no fire, while it waits for the fire department to come and put it out. NSAIDs also tell you there is no fire, while they wield a fire extinguisher. Just make sure you take these with food. Otherwise it can irritate your stomach lining and cause internal bleeding. Other than that, NSAIDs are relatively side effect free! Just follow the instructions and you will be right as rain!

Opioids

If you are in need of Opioids, you are probably in a really bad way. These aren’t readily available over the counter, and are usually saved for recovery from serious surgeries and wounds. These aren’t everyday remedies like panadol panamax or Nurofen. We are talking about the likes of Codeine all the way through Endone and into Morphine. Opioids bind themselves to opioid receptors in your gut, and central nervous system. Essentially this masks the way your body feels pain, while increasing your tolerance for pain. Anyone who has had an opioid knows that they make you drift away from the pain of your condition. The side effects in the immediate include nausea, dryness of the mouth and constipation. If you’ve been prescribed such powerful painkillers, these probably sound small fry compared to your pain. But the flipside is that they are highly addictive, and there is a risk that you become dependent on them to deal with pain. In fact, in the twenty years from 1999 to 2019, nearly half a million Americans died from overdosing on prescription and illicit opioids. For this reason, doctors are fairly reluctant to prescribe them, and as a pharmacist, I am required to monitor patients for signs of addiction. These things are wonderful when you need them, but you want to make sure your love affair is short and sweet. The long term costs are simply too high.

The other point to consider is the fact that children’s medicines differ slightly from the medicine you or I would take. This is because the way their bodies process drugs (what is known as the pharmacokinetic processes) changes as they go through adolescence. They absorb drugs differently, their bodies distribute it at faster rates, their metabolism is different to ours. For example you should never give Aspirin to children under the age of twelve as it can lead to a rare condition called Reye’s Syndrome which causes swelling in the liver and the brain. Signs and symptoms include confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness. If you are even slightly concerned about giving medicine to your child, you should consult your GP. You can’t put a price on peace of mind after all.

So when you scan the aisle or the website looking for the perfect product you can rest assured that you can’t really go wrong if you know whether you are after an NSAID or a paracetamol product. All the external trappings like ‘cold relief’ or ‘rapid absorption’ are all very well and good, but at the most basic level of the drug, they are all using the same basic ingredients. And at the end of the day, something is going to be better than nothing. Feel free to take a peruse through our extensive range of painkillers. We have an abundance of panadol panamax nurofen aspirin… The list goes on.

All the best,

Floyd.