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Painkiller safety

Painkiller safety

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Painkillers are something we all reach for from time to time but usually swallow down without actually bothering to read the leaflet that comes with them. Over the counter painkillers are widely used and are generally regarded as being safe and effective. However, painkiller safety is not to be overlooked.

Different types of painkiller

There are three main types of painkiller: paracetamol, opioids (including codeine and morphine) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which include ibuprofen. Each type works in a different way and sometimes two are merged into one medicine.

Do I need a prescription?

Many painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and mild opoids are available to buy over the counter from pharmacies and supermarkets. These are helpful if you have mild pain that doesn’t last for a while. However, if you are in severe pain or your symptoms are long-term then you may be prescribed painkillers by the doctor. Most people only need to take painkillers for a few days or weeks to deal with a specific condition, such as toothache or cold and flu symptoms. To minimise the risk of suffering from side effects, it’s wise to take the lowest dose that will treat your pain for the shortest amount of time possible.

Side effects

As with all medicines, it is possible that you may experience side effects when taking painkillers. Serious side effects from painkillers are quite rare. Reported side effects include (but are not limited to) nausea, constipation and drowsiness. Check the leaflet inside the packet for detailed information about side effects connected to the particular product you’re taking.

Special care

Some painkillers aren’t suitable for people who have or have had certain conditions. For example, if you have severe heart failure or if you’ve ever had a stomach ulcer you should avoid ipubrofen and aspirin. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking painkillers if you are over 65, have asthma, are pregnant/breastfeeding, are taking medication for high blood pressure or have poor kidney or liver function.

Taking too much

painkiller safetyIf you realise you have taken too many or too high a dosage of painkillers it is important to seek medical advice, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Paracetamol overdoses can be particularly dangerous as it causes liver damage, which may not become obvious for a few days but can prove fatal. Some medications, such as those for colds and flu, contain painkillers as well as other active ingredients so it’s vital to check labels before taking more than one medication.

Are painkillers safe for children?

Paracetamol and ibuprofen are both suitable for pain relief and reducing a fever in children. However, you should check with your pharmacist and read the label carefully to make sure you administer the correct dosage for the child’s age and size. Liquid and soluble painkillers are available for younger children who may not be able to swallow tablets easily. Children under the age of 16 should not be given aspirin (unless specifically prescribed by a doctor) due to the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome. Painkillers should always be kept hidden away out of children’s reach.




About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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