What is it?
Available over the counter, acetaminophen alleviates pain by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, hormonelike substances that lead to swelling and help transmit pain signals to the brain. It’s best for minor aches and pains, pain with bruising, and muscle pain.

Active Ingredient (Common Brand)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Common Side Effects

Safe Use
Don’t exceed the dosage recommended in package directions – too much can cause kidney and liver damage. If you suspect that you’ve taken too much, contact the nearest poison information center. Do not drink alcohol if you’ll be taking more than two doses of acetaminophen.

Hidden Benefits
Research suggests that when a woman takes a single dose on a daily basis, acetaminophen may reduce her risk of ovarian cancer by half.

Not Recommended For
Heavy drinkers or people with liver damage. If you consume alcoholic beverages, consult your physician before using acetaminophen, since it is hard on the liver.

Special Hints
Keep your acetaminophen out of damp places, including your bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture cause it to break down. Many heavily advertised names can be more expensive; check into store brands. Don’t waste your money using this medicine for the swelling of arthritis – it isn’t as effective against inflammation as other medications. Save it for headaches and other minor aches and pains.