The Real Differences Between Advil and Tylenol

Lots of us probably think of Tylenol and Advil as interchangeable remedies: the go-to for when we are suffering from a headache or a twisted ankle. But, it shouldn't be so. The two common drugs are actually quite different in their chemical makeup, and should therefore be used for their own distinct purposes. In short, ibuprofen works by inhibiting production of prostaglandins, chemicals released by cells that trigger inflammation and pain. Acetaminophen, on the other hand, is a bit more mysterious. Studies have suggested that the drug works to actually blunt people’s emotional receptors, thereby dulling pain as something of a side effect. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal breaks down the differences and discusses the intricacies of our two most commonly popped pills. Learn more below.

Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin):

  • Better for treating fever (though should be avoided by children under six months and pregnant women).
  • Better for pain related to inflammation; arthritis, back pain, muscle soreness, etc.
  • May lead to kidney complictions, high blood pressure, or higher risk for stroke or heart attack.
  • Can lead to stomach aches and ulcers.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol):

  • Best for treating straightforward headaches.
  • A better choice for individuals with preexisting kidney problems, a history of ulcers, or gastrointestinal problems.
  • Excessive use can cause liver damage (so maybe skip the Tylenol when struck with your next hangover).


Did any of this information surprise you? Head to The Wall Street Journal to read the entire article.