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What Is The Difference Between Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) And Ibuprofen?

They have some different effects.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

Edited by Francesca Benson

Francesca Benson

Copy Editor and Staff Writer

Francesca Benson is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer with a MSci in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham.

Ibuprofen package on sale.

Which should you go for? That depends.

Image credit: Mr Doomits/

A Reddit user recently asked the question "what is the difference between taking paracetamol and Ibuprofen?", revealing that a large number of other users also didn't know the difference. While both are taken to relieve pain, paracetamol (known as acetaminophen in the USA, or the brand name Tylenol) and ibuprofen work quite differently.

Paracetamol, one of the most commonly used pain relief medications, can also reduce fever by affecting an area of the brain that regulates body temperature. The exact mechanism by which paracetamol reduces pain remains a bit of a mystery, but scientists think it reduces the intensity of pain signals to the brain by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzymes. The paracetamol metabolite AM404 is also thought to have a role in paracetamol's pain-relieving properties.


The drug is sometimes used in conjunction with others.

"Paracetamol has been assessed in different conditions and demonstrated therapeutic efficacy on both acute and chronic pain," a review of paracetamol as pain for musculoskeletal pain conditions relief explains. "It is active as a single agent and is additive or synergistic with NSAIDs [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] and opioids, improving their efficacy and safety."

Ibuprofen, meanwhile, is an NSAID. This drug can help relieve fever, pain, and inflammation. It also works on cyclooxygenase and inhibits the body's ability to produce prostaglandins, which are produced at the point of tissue damage or infection and control inflammation among other processes.

As well as for everyday, short-term pain, ibuprofen is used to manage and treat inflammatory diseases and rheumatoid disorders.


Both medications are widely used for the short-term treatment of pain, as well as longer-term when recommended by a doctor, as well as for reducing fever. Ibuprofen may be more effective as pain relief where inflammation is involved. Both also have their downsides, warnings, and potential side effects.

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current. 

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.  


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