Aspirin Vs. Tylenol: Which Is Safer?

Popping pain relievers like candy may seem like no big deal, but choosing the right one can be incredibly important to your overall health. Before you use either Aspirin or Tylenol as your go-to medicine when a headache strikes, there are a few things you should know about their efficacy. 

First of all, it appears that Tylenol and Aspirin may not be doing much to alleviate pain in the first place. Vox reports that ibuprofen is more effective than both options, with Aspirin coming in last in terms of pain relief. Tylenol is the brand name for acetaminophen, and studies show that it's also linked to a higher incidence of liver issues than its counterpart, the outlet notes. Indeed, this drug was the number one cause of liver failure in the United States between 1998 and 2003.

"We always thought [acetaminophen] was safe, but there are increasing signals of accidental overdose in people who are regularly using it for chronic pain, and some liver toxicity," University of Leeds' professor, Philip Conaghan, explained to the outlet. 

While you should speak with your doctor if you're taking any pain reliever long-term, it seems that Tylenol — or acetaminophen — is one of the more dangerous options you can choose. "It's an old drug, obsolete, and should be avoided altogether," Kay Brune, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Germany's Friedrich-Alexander University, added. 

Aspirin may be a safer option than Tylenol

The effectiveness of both Tylenol and Aspirin often depends on the type of pain you're experiencing. For instance, Aspirin offers anti-inflammatory benefits that Tylenol doesn't, Insider reports. It also acts as a blood thinner — making it unsafe for people with certain conditions. In general, children should not take Aspirin, especially if they're recovering from chickenpox. Aspirin also interacts with a high number of other medications, including ibuprofen, so be sure to check with your doctor if you're taking other drugs. However, Aspirin may also be helpful in reducing the incidence of strokes and heart attacks, Vox reports.

On the other hand, Tylenol can be extremely dangerous in high doses. The outlet notes that too much acetaminophen can seriously damage your liver, spurring symptoms like decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. So, taking acetaminophen in small doses may be okay, but it likely won't be as effective as ibuprofen. On the other hand, it also won't be as safe as Aspirin.

Before you reach for pain relief in a bottle, do some research on which medicine works best for your specific ailment and only take it in moderation.