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Pain is a sign that something has gone wrong. So you can't really cure the pain, only the underlying cause of pain. For example, if you have a toothache, you can relieve the pain with suitable medication, but your suffering will only really stop once you have appropriate dental treatment.

However, that doesn't mean you have to suffer while finding out the underlying cause. Painkillers are freely available over the counter. While there are many brand names, there are only a small number of basic painkilling ingredients. And each has its own specific uses and precautions.

Aspirin is one of the oldest painkillers. It was originally derived from willow bark, but has now been synthesized. Aspirin is good for pain, fever and inflammation. If you have a swollen anything that is causing pain, aspirin is probably your best bet.

Things to know about aspirin.
1) Don't give aspirin to children under 12. There is a chance that they can develop a very rare and fatal disease called Reye's syndrome. Why take even a one in a million chance if it's your child?
2) Aspirin can cause ulceration and bleeding in your stomach. So always take aspirin after a meal. And always take it with a full glass of water, just to be extra safe. Some aspirin products are buffered, which has the same effect as taking it with a glass of milk or an antacid. This helps lessen stomach irritation. Some aspirin products are coated. This means that the aspirin is only released once the tablet has passed out of the stomach into the small intestine.
3) Aspirin helps prevent blood clotting, even in small doses. This can be good if you are trying to avoid strokes and heart attacks, and researchers are experimenting in this very field. However, it can be bad if you are a bleeder, and your blood doesn't clot easily even when you want it to.

Paracetamol is the usual alternative to aspirin. It treats pain and fever, but not inflammation. It is good for everyday aches and pains such as a headache, toothache, or joint pains. It can safely be given to children in liquid form, and is one of the safest analgesics when taken correctly.

Things to know about paracetamol.
1) Paracetamol affects the liver. If you have an alcoholic hangover, avoid paracetamol.
2) An overdose of paracetamol can be fatal. It can cause severe liver and kidney damage.
3) An overdose of paracetamol can be as little as 20 tablets in one day.

Read your painkiller instructions very carefully!

Ibuprofen is a relative newcomer to over-the counter painkillers. It works in a similar way to aspirin, and is good for pain, fever and bad inflammation. Ibuprofen is therefore a good choice for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout pain. It also relieves mild to moderate headaches, menstrual pain, pain from skin injuries and pain after operations.

Things to know about ibuprofen.
1) Ibuprofen rarely causes bleeding in the stomach by itself, but may interact with other drugs to do so.
2) In rare cases, it may cause wheezing, breathlessness or a rash, in which case you should stop taking it immediately and consult a doctor.

Prescription painkillers are usually narcotic drugs, which act on the brain to reduce the pain stimulus. However, codeine is a narcotic drug which is often found in nonprescription medicines. It can be habit-forming, and you should scrutinize your labels carefully if you are worried about potentially addictive substances.

Remember that pain is a symptom of a deeper problem. It may just be a mild, passing problem, in which case your readily available painkillers should provide relief immediately. If the pain persists for longer than 48 hours, or if it comes back even worse, consult your doctor.