The Dangers of Mixing Aspirin and Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
There is nothing worse than being struck by a debilitating headache in the middle of your day when you still have a million things to accomplish. Throbbing pain around or behind the eyes, or along the sides of the head, makes it difficult to focus, so you reach for the aspirin to relieve the pain.
When a headache makes it impossible to endure the light, sound, and activity of everyday life, we may be tempted to take more than just a couple of aspirin. So, what do we do? We pop two Tylenol (acetaminophen) and go about our day.
Everyone does it, so it must be safe, right? Unfortunately, mixing over-the-counter medications can have lasting and damaging affects on our internal organs.
Let's discuss the dangers of mixing aspirin and acetaminophen.
Is It Dangerous to Mix Aspirin and Acetaminophen?
Mixing these two medications can be dangerous. The short answer is to not overdo it. Taking the manufacturer's recommended dosage of aspirin and acetaminophen together for a short time has not been shown to cause organ damage. Aspirin and acetaminophen can be taken alone at higher doses without causing damage. So if you need long-term pain relief use either acetaminophen or aspirin, but not both, unless you are under a doctor's care.
Why Is It Dangerous to Take Too Many Aspirin and Tylenol?
- Aspirin can cause dangerous bleeding in the stomach and intestines.
- Drugs called NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen (Advil and generics) and naproxen (Aleve and generics), can magnify the risk of internal bleeding.
- Ibuprofen might interfere with aspirin's ability to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
- Use acetaminophen with caution. It can damage the liver, which is a terrible risk for people with cirrhosis of the liver or hepatitis, heavy drinkers, and seniors.
- Don't take more than the maximum daily amount of 4,000 mg per day, or the equivalent of eight extra-strength 500 mg capsules.
Unless you have other medical conditions, particularly liver (risk with heavy drinks, hepatitis patents or seniors) or kidney issues (seniors are at risk here too), it is safe to mix acetaminophen and aspirin together for a short time, provided one does not go over the maximum dose for the two drugs.— Alam Hallan RPh, CDE
Kidney Damage From Combining Aspirin and Tylenol
We have all reached for the aspirin after a night of drinking or when we have a bad headache. It happens to be the number one over-the-counter drug of choice for university and college students, not to mention being touted as a life-saver for anyone with heart problems. However, longterm mixing of acetaminophen (the ingredient in Tylenol) and aspirin can result in renal (kidney) damage. It will not happen if you mix them once or twice, but mixing repeatedly over a long period of time is dangerous.
Tylenol Causes the Formation of Free Oxide Radicals
Tylenol causes the formation of free oxide radicals which damage tissues, especially in the kidneys and liver. This is not a normal reaction to low doses of Tylenol, with but habitual use, especially at a higher dose, can begin damaging the innermost part of the kidney.
The kidneys perform two important functions: filtering waste from our internal fluids and producing hormones that help other organs to function. With repeated exposure to acetaminophen, the kidneys' structural units, the nephron limbs, thicken. This causes the kidneys to slowly lose their filtering capacity.
The Function of Nephrons in Your Body
The function of nephrons is to regulate the concentration of water and sodium salts in your body. They filter our blood, reabsorbing what is needed and disposing of the rest as urine. There are 800,000 to 1.5 million nephrons in each one of our kidneys. Together they eradicate waste, regulate our blood volume and blood pressure, control our levels of electrolytes and metabolites, and regulate the PH balance of our blood. This is what makes our kidneys such vital organs.
Are you clutching your blankets in fear? Don't worry. This damage is caused by long-term mixing of aspirin and acetaminophen. Do not make a habit of combining them. If you are experiencing pain that strong or debilitating, you should see your doctor. They can prescribe a medication strong enough to manage your pain.
Side Effects of Aspirin
All medications come with a certain amount of risk. Aspirin is no exception. While most side effects associated with aspirin are fairly mild, others are terribly painful. Stop using this medication and call your doctor at once if you have any of the side effects below.
The most common side effects include:
- Upset stomach
Less common side effects include:
- Black, bloody, or tarry stools
- Coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Severe nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain
- Fever lasting longer than three days
- Swelling, or pain lasting longer than 10 days
- Hearing problems, ringing in your ears
Mixing Aspirin and Ibuprofen
If you take aspirin on a regular basis, but need a stronger pain reliever for a headache, wait either eight hours or 30 minutes after taking your daily dose of aspirin before using the pain reliever ibuprofen.
Side Effects of Tylenol
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is an analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer) used for treating pain and fever associated with several conditions. Tylenol is available in generic form and over-the-counter (OTC). Both forms have the same side effects. While these side effects are usually mild, they should not be taken lightly.
Side effects of Tylenol include:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)
Side effects caused by an allergic reaction include:
- Itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat)
- Severe dizziness
- Trouble breathing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Aspirin and Acetaminophen
Are Aspirin and Acetaminophen the Same?
There are essentially two types of OTC pain relievers. Some contain acetaminophen, which is processed in the liver. Other pain relievers contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These are processed elsewhere. Examples of OTC NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
Are Tylenol and Acetaminophen the Same?
Acetaminophen is the generic name for the brand name medication Tylenol, made by McNeil Consumer. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever for mild to moderate pain, such as headaches, muscle aches, backache, and toothaches, and fevers.
Can Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Thin Your Blood?
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is usually safe. Excessive acetaminophen can cause liver failure. Also, stay away from ibuprofen and aspirin-like anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because these drugs can reduce amniotic fluid and thin the blood.
Is Acetaminophen Bad for Your Liver?
Acetaminophen is a very safe drug when taken as directed, even for people with liver disease. Nevertheless, every drug carries risks. Liver damage from acetaminophen, which can be severe, can result either from an overdose, or from regular doses that are taken while drinking alcohol.
What Are the Signs of Liver Damage From Tylenol?
You may mistake early symptoms of liver damage (for example, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting) for something else, like the flu. Liver damage can develop into liver failure or death over several days. Acetaminophen is generally safe when taken as directed.
How Much Is Too Much Acetaminophen?
The maximum daily dose for a healthy adult who weighs at least 150 pounds is 4,000 milligrams (mg). However, in some people, taking the maximum daily dose for extended periods can seriously damage the liver. It's best to take the lowest dose necessary and stay closer to 3,000 mg per day as your maximum dose.
Which Is Safer, Aspirin or Tylenol?
Acetaminophen is just not a very good pain reliever, yet it's the go-to drug because it's thought to be safe in low doses. However, aspirin is safer than acetaminophen, but to be used as a pain reliever, it requires much higher doses. These high doses can have side effects, such as an upset stomach.
For most common acute pain issues, these drugs are not the best choice. When it comes to pain relief, Ibuprofen is probably the best.— Alam Hallan RPh, CDE
Alternatives to Taking Aspirin or Tylenol
How It Helps
Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
This distinctive, curry spice possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
Harvested from chili peppers, this remedy reduces nerve, muscle and joint pain by stopping the chemical known as substance P.
Magnesium supplements can help curb the pain of migraines.
Often called "Indian frankincense," boswellia contains active components like resin that reduce inflammation and pain.
Facts About Aspirin
- Aspirin is found to be an effective treatment for pain, fever and inflammation.
- An estimated 100 billion tablets are swallowed every year.
- The most active ingredient in aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid, a derivative of a compound naturally found in plants, most notably the willow tree.
- Hippocrates, the Greek physician, recommended that women in childbirth sip a brew made from the leaves of a willow tree to help treat labour pains.
- In the 1970s, aspirin was shown to block a natural enzyme needed for production of natural hormones involved in many body processes, like pain and tissue injury.
- Even today, the full effect aspirin has on the body is still being discovered.
When a Child Is Ill or in Pain
Check the package very carefully before giving a combination of medicines to a child. If you are not certain whether a specific product can be given to a child, or if you have any questions about the amount to give, check with your health care professional.
Facts About Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
- Tylenol is often recommended as a gastric-friendly alternative to aspirin, which has a history of irritating the stomach when taken without food.
- It is one of the most widely used medicines in the United States, mainly for treatment of pain and fever.
- In 2008, there were nearly 24.6 billion doses sold in North America.
- Is the most common over-the-counter medication sited in unintentional, and intentional, overdoses, which can lead to acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity.
- The risk of fatal liver damage is heightened by alcohol consumption. Even normal doses can cause this rare reaction.
- Tylenol was first marketed in the United States, in 1953, by Sterling-Winthrop Co.
- An active ingredient in Tylenol, paracetamol, is extremely toxic to cats and even the most minute portion can be fatal.
Have You Ever Taken Tylenol and Aspirin Together?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.