Advil vs. Tylenol Overview: Comparing Pain Medications

Woman comparing different Advil vs Tylenol medications

Advil vs. Tylenol Overview: Comparing Pain Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications like Advil and Tylenol can both help relieve pain from various sources. These OTC medications can help relieve or reduce pain due to headaches, sore muscles, or other aches and pains. Each person is unique and may react in different ways to the same medications, so make sure you account for that as well. Compare Advil vs. Tylenol to see which might be better suited for your patient’s specific pain relief needs.

What is the difference between Tylenol and Advil?

Advil and Tylenol are both OTC pain medications, but there are some important differences. First of all, there are two main OTC pain medications: acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.1

Tylenol contains acetaminophen as its main active ingredient. Acetaminophen works on the parts of the brain that receive pain messages and on the parts that controls body temperature. Acetaminophen doesn't help reduce inflammation, however.2

Because of this, Tylenol can be used to:2

  • Relieve headaches
  • Ease common aches and pains
  • Treat arthritis pain and other painful conditions
  • Relieve pain from menstrual cramps

Advil is typically an NSAID-type medication, with ibuprofen being the main ingredient. However, there are some Advil products that offer dual action with both ibuprofen and acetaminophen as active ingredients. NSAIDs help reduce the amount of prostaglandins, a hormone-like substance that irritates nerve endings and creates pain feelings.2

NSAIDs can be used to:2

  • Reduce fever
  • Relieve pain caused by muscle aches and stiffness
  • Reduce and ease pain from inflammation
  • Relieve menstrual pain
  • Relive headache
  • Treat minor arthritis pains

There are also several different types of NSAIDs that are commonly used in OTC medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.2

Consider what kind of pain and symptoms your patient is dealing with when comparing Advil vs. Tylenol for pain. Both Tylenol and Advil come in different forms like tablets, gel capsules, or minis, or for different purposes like specifically for migraines.

Some common Advil vs Tylenol medications are listed here:

Advil TabletsAdvil Liqui-GelsAdvil MigraineAdvil Arthritis Easy Open

Tylenol Regular Strength TabletsTylenol Extra Strength CapletsTylenol Rapid Release GelsTylenol 8HR Arthritis Pain

Advil vs. Tylenol for Pain Considerations

When choosing between Advil and Tylenol, you should also consider your patient’s existing conditions and how those medications may affect their body long-term. Most adults can take either acetaminophen or NSAIDs once in a while without side effects. Taking either of these OTC pain medications too frequently can cause side effects.2

Both acetaminophen and NSAIDs can lead to liver damage if used too frequently. It's advised not to recommend either of these medications if your patient has severe kidney or liver disease, drinks three or more alcoholic beverages a day, or are taking other NSAID/acetaminophen medications already.

The US Food and Drug Administration recommends NSAIDs shouldn't be taken more than 10 days consecutively because side effects can develop quickly. Talk to your patient before advising the usage of NSAIDs like Advil if they have conditions like stomach bleeding, ulcers, liver or kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, or take blood thinning medication.2

How to Use & Store Advil vs. Tylenol Safely

Both Advil and Tylenol can be stored safely in the bottle they come in, capped securely in a cool, dry place out of reach of children and pets. Make sure your patients follow the instructions on the bottle label, to get the right dosage. If your patient has more questions that the label can’t answer, they should reach out to you, the health care professional. You can also visit for more information.

Some other OTC pain medication safety tips include:2

  • Check with your patient to see if they are already taking other prescription pain medications.
  • Your patient should not combine different OTC pain medications; they may have similar active ingredients or interact poorly
  • Inform your patient not to take more than the dosage listed on the label, or as advised by you.

Questions to Consider for Your Patient

If your patient has pre-existing medical conditions or takes other medications, it's always advised to talk to them before suggesting new OTC pain medications. If you're not sure which medication is best for their pain, Advil vs. Tylenol, this document should provide some clarification to help you choose.

Important questions to consider about your patient and OTC pain medications include:

  • What kind of pain reliever is best for your patient?
  • What are the side effects that may impact them?
  • How much is the maximum they should take each day?
  • How long should your patient be taking these medicaitons?
  • Will the patient’s current medications and medical conditions interfere with them taking OTC pain medications?

If you need additional help finding the right pain relief for your patient’s situation, visit where you can also find more patient resources for pain relief options.

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