Aspirin Vs. Tylenol: Which Is Better For Pain Relief?

When it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, two drugs likely come to the forefront of your mind: aspirin and Tylenol. Both are very popular but quite different when it comes to their chemical makeup, and one may even be more effective than the other.

Aspirin as we know it today was created in 1897 by German chemist Felix Hoffmann, who worked for pharmaceutical giant Bayer (based in Leverkusen, Germany), per the Texas Heart Institute Journal (posted at the U.S. National Library of Medicine). He formulated the drug, which is categorized as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), by altering salicylic acid to create acetylsalicylic acid. Aspirin works by blocking specific enzymes in the body that are activated by tissue damage that causes pain, inflammation, and swelling, according to Insider.

Tylenol, on the other hand, was introduced in 1955 by American Robert L. McNeil Jr., an executive at McNeil Pharmacy (based in Philadelphia), which later became known as McNeil Laboratories, per The New York Times. The late McNeil, whose grandfather founded McNeil Laboratories, was the third generation to work at the company. He developed Tylenol as a direct competitor to Aspirin. Tylenol, which was originally intended as a prescription painkiller for kids, is classified as acetaminophen (otherwise known as an analgesic antipyretic), and works by blocking our brains from releasing the chemical that causes us to feel pain, according to Healthline. So which is truly the better option: Tylenol or aspirin?

Tylenol benefits and side effects

Tylenol is used to treat fever and pain associated with a number of conditions such as headaches, menstrual cramps, and toothaches, via RxList. The oral dose of Tylenol for adults is 325 to 650 mg every 4 to 6 hours, with a maximum daily dose of 4 grams. Tylenol is also safe for children to consume, though in smaller doses. Tylenol has 18 known major drug interactions, according to It can also be especially dangerous for persons who consume large amounts of alcohol, as it increases the risk of liver toxicity, per Insider. Some common side effects of Tylenol include nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, rash, and dark urine. Some of the more serious side effects include shortness of breath and dizziness, and itching and swelling (particularly of the tongue, face, or throat), per RxList.

When it comes to headache relief, Tylenol is considered one of the best medications around, even more effective than Aspirin, according to Insider. Tylenol is also considered a better option for arthritis pain, as it can be taken for a long period of time when compared with Aspirin. However, with regards to overdosing or excessive use, Tylenol is much more dangerous than its German competitor because of its potential to damage the liver, which can cause serious symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, and even coma, says Insider.

Aspirin benefits and side effects

Aspirin is sold under the brand names Bayer Aspirin, Ecotrin, and Bufferin. Aspirin, like Tylenol, is also used to treat fever and pain. The daily dose for Bayer Aspirin ranges from 50 mg to 6000 mg. Aspirin is also approved for use in children older than three, though as always, parents should exercise caution when giving it to children or teenagers. Aspirin has 47 known major drug interactions, and should not be taken in conjunction with blood thinners, as it might cause excessive bleeding, according to and Healthline. Some common side effects of aspirin include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and stomach cramps, via WebMD.

Although Tylenol is said to be more effective when it comes to headache relief, aspirin does have some benefits of its own.  "Aspirin has anti-inflammatory properties that Tylenol does not," Suzanne Nesbit, clinical pharmacy specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told Insider. Aspirin is also effective in preventing blood clots and reducing the risk of strokes and heart attack.

All in all, if you have a headache, reaching for Tylenol is probably a safe bet (assuming you're not planning to drink later that night). However, for other conditions such as fever and cramps, it appears that either one is fine. Meanwhile, if you're looking to bring inflammation down or maintain heart health, then aspirin might be better for you. As with any medication, if you have questions, check with your doctor.