Need a GP appointment? Telephone or Video GP service
With our GP services, we aim to give you an appointment the same day, subject to availability.
To book or to make an enquiry, call us on 0343 253 8381∧
Paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen can all ease mild-to-moderate pain. But they work in different ways. Aspirin and ibuprofen work well on pain that’s caused by inflammation. But there are some circumstances when you shouldn’t take them. Paracetamol relieves pain but doesn’t reduce inflammation. If these painkillers don’t control your pain, you can try a combination. For example, paracetamol or ibuprofen with codeine or dihydrocodeine.
For more information, see our sections on types of over-the-counter painkiller and how over-the-counter painkillers work. If you’re unsure which painkiller to take, ask a pharmacist for advice.
Yes, you can take paracetamol and ibuprofen together if either medicine on its own isn't controlling your pain. With children, you can alternate paracetamol and ibuprofen, but it’s best not to give them at the same time. For more information, see our section on types of over-the-counter painkiller. If you’re unsure about what you can take, always check with your pharmacist.
Although paracetamol is a safe medicine if you take it correctly, it can cause serious health problems if you take too much. It can damage your liver and can be fatal. It can be easy to take too much paracetamol because it’s in many different products – for example, cold and flu medicines.
If you think you or your child may have taken too much paracetamol, get medical help straight away. For more information, see our section on taking over-the-counter painkillers.
Paracetamol tends to have fewer side-effects than other over-the-counter painkillers. Ibuprofen and aspirin can cause stomach problems. Paracetamol is often better for people with conditions that cause bleeding. Paracetamol is also the safest painkiller to take during pregnancy. But any medicine can be dangerous if you take too much. For more information, see our section on side-effects of over-the-counter painkillers.
Codeine is a weak opioid painkiller. It can be added to other painkillers such as paracetamol to help relieve pain. It can be worth trying if paracetamol or ibuprofen on its own is not enough. You shouldn’t take painkillers containing codeine for more than three days at a time. For more information, see our section on types of over-the-counter painkiller.
Did our Over-the-counter painkillers information help you?
We’d love to hear what you think. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our health information.
This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals and deemed accurate on the date of review. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.
Any information about a treatment or procedure is generic, and does not necessarily describe that treatment or procedure as delivered by Bupa or its associated providers.
The information contained on this page and in any third party websites referred to on this page is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment. Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. We do not accept advertising on this page.
- Medicines: reclassify your product. Medicines and Healthcare Product Regulatory Agency. gov.uk, last updated 7 October 2021
- Analgesia – mild-to-moderate pain. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised November 2021
- Self care and over the counter items: A quick reference guide. PrescQIPP. www.prescqipp.info, published October 2018
- Conditions for which over the counter items should not routinely be prescribed in primary care: Guidance for CCGs. NHS England, 29 March 2018. www.england.nhs.uk
- Analgesics. NICE British National Formulary. bnf.nice.org.uk, last updated 17 December 2021
- Over the counter items – GP guide to self care. PrescQIPP. www.prescqipp.info, October 2018
- Anadin original. SmPC. electronic medicines compendium. medicines.org.uk, July 2020
- Paramol tablets. SmPC. Electronic medicines compendium. medicines.org.uk, last updated 10 January 2019
- Queremel Milani DA, Davis DD. Pain management medications. StatPearls Publishing. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, last updated 19 August 2021
- Best practice guidance on the sale of medicines for pain relief. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, published July 2012. gov.uk
- The Human Medicines Regulations 2012. HM Government. www.legislation.gov.uk
- Paracetamol poisoning. Patient. patient.info, last edited 21 January 2019
- Ibuprofen. NICE British National Formulary. bnf.nice.org.uk, last updated 17 December 2021
- Aspirin. NICE British National Formulary. bnf.nice.org.uk, last updated 17 December 2021
- NSAIDs – prescribing issues. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last reviewed April 2020
- Analgesics. NICE British National Formulary for Children. bnfc.nice.org.uk, last updated 17 December 2021
- Fever. NICE British National Formulary for Children. bnfc.nice.org.uk, last updated 17 December 2021
- Ibuprofen. NICE British National Formulary for Children. bnfc.nice.org.uk, last updated 17 December 2021
- Paracetamol. NICE British National Formulary for Children. bnfc.nice.org.uk, last updated 17 December 2021