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Aspirin and paracetamol both act to reduce pain and lower fever, but are active in different areas of the body and provide different additional benefits. Aspirin will also limit inflammation and provides anti-clotting properties, while paracetamol does not offer these benefits. The best drug to take depends on the patient and the situation. Both medications are readily available through pharmacies, and patients may want to talk to the doctor about the most suitable drug for their needs.
Also known as acetaminophen, paracetamol is a prostaglandin inhibitor and works by limiting the production of cyclooxygenase, a chemical compound the body uses to send pain signals. Aspirin is also a prostaglandin inhibitor, but acts on different compounds like thromboxanes.
Both aspirin and paracetamol will block pain signals and make patients feel more comfortable. Paracetamol acts primarily on receptors for pain in the central nervous system and will block the signal before it reaches the brain. Aspirin acts locally at the site of the pain to stop it from producing pain signals. It will also reduce inflammation, if any inflammatory reaction is present. Fever will drop with both medications in patients who have developed a temperature.
Aspirin tends to be harder on the gastrointestinal tract than paracetamol, which can be a cause for concern in patients with stomach problems. Both aspirin and paracetamol can potentially be dangerous for the liver if taken in large amounts. Patients must take care when measuring out doses and timing them to make sure they get enough medication but do not endanger their livers. If a patient does overdose, rapid treatment in a hospital is necessary.
For issues like headaches, paracetamol can be a better choice, as it will block the pain and make the patient feel more comfortable, without gastrointestinal side effects. Aspirin may be the best option when a patient has inflammation as well, as the drug will treat the cause of the pain and block the signals at the same time. Patients weighing aspirin and paracetamol to decide on the best drug should consider whether they need anti-inflammatory properties in their medication.
Patients may take aspirin in the long term as a therapeutic measure to prevent the development of blood clots. Aspirin therapy should be followed under medical supervision only, and it is important to be aware that the drug will not address pain and inflammation, only reduce the susceptibility to clotting. Higher doses will be necessary to treat pain.