Advil vs Aspirin For Pain Relief: What are the Differences?

Advil (brand-name version of ibuprofen) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that works by reducing hormones that cause pain and inflammation in the human body.

It is used to relieve pain from various conditions, like – dental pain, headache, muscle aches, menstrual cramps, or arthritis.

This medicine brand is among the top over-the-counter drug brands in the US, accounting for more than 490.9 million U.S. dollars in revenue per year. In 1974, it was approved for use by prescription in the US, and in 1984, it was made available as OTC medicine.


It is useful for treating fever, inflammation, and pain, especially pain caused by toothaches, menstrual cramps, sports-related injuries, and backaches.

Furthermore, in children under 12, it is used for pain and fever due to a sore throat, colds, earache, and immunization.


It comes in oral suspension and tablet forms. The recommended dose for an adult is 200 to 400 mg every four to six hours. To avoid a possible overdose, do not consume more than 3200 mg a day. Also, it is available in an injectable form to be given directly into a vein by a doctor.

Side Effects

The most concerning side effect is the fact that this medicine can irritate the lining of the stomach which can ultimately lead to bleeding and ulcers, in some cases, without warning.

More importantly, individuals who have cardiovascular disease, especially people who recently had a cardiac bypass surgery or heart attack, are at the greatest risk for cardiovascular adverse reactions linked with this medicine.

Other side effects may include:

  • fluid retention;
  • priapism (painfully erect clitoris or penis which does not return to its limp state);
  • nausea;
  • dizziness;
  • headache;
  • nosebleed (epistaxis);
  • constipation;
  • diarrhea;
  • change in the amount of urine;
  • raised liver enzymes.

Some people may also experience an allergic reaction to this medicine. Symptoms may include:

  • a cough from postnasal drip;
  • a sore throat;
  • a runny nose;
  • watery eyes;
  • nasal congestion.


Aspirin, also referred to as acetylsalicylic acid, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat headaches, minor aches and pains, and inflammation.

When taken, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and reacts with certain chemicals in the blood to reduce the substances in the body that are causing the pain.


In low doses, it is used:

  • to prevent colorectal cancer;
  • to prevent a stroke;
  • to prevent myocardial infarction (heart attack) in sufferers with cardiovascular disease;
  • to reduce the risk of a transient ischemic attack;
  • to prevent blood clots from forming.

In high doses, it can be used to reduce the symptoms of:

  • pericarditis;
  • rheumatic arthritis;
  • rheumatic fever (a condition that can develop after strep throat).

Because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties, it is used to treat minor body pains and aches, toothaches, headaches, as well as to reduce fevers. Also, it is used to treat Kawasaki disease (a condition that can cause heart problems in children).

Side Effects

Rare side effects may include:

  • tarry stools;
  • hives;
  • rash;
  • wheezing;
  • swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, or throat;
  • tinnitus;
  • bloody vomit;
  • breathing difficulties;
  • red blood in stools;
  • bleeding in the stomach;
  • hoarseness;
  • weakness;
  • slurred speech;
  • vision problems;
  • a severe headache;
  • cold, clammy skin;
  • vomit which looks like coffee grounds;
  • fast heartbeat.

Common side effects may include:

  • bruising or bleeding more easily than usual;
  • stomach aches and indigestion (using this drug with food may help reduce these side effects).

Do not take this medicine if you:

  • have severe congestive heart failure (a condition in which the heart can’t pump sufficient blood to meet the body’s requirements);
  • have a severe liver failure (the use of alcohol may also increase this risk);
  • are allergic to any ingredients of this drug;
  • have severe kidney failure;
  • are in your last trimester of pregnancy;
  • have had a severe allergic reaction caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like – ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen, or indomethacin), ASA, or salicylates;
  • have an active gastric ulcer;
  • are using methotrexate (an immune system suppressant and chemotherapy agent) at doses of 15 mg or more every seven days;
  • are prone to bleeding.

Note – this medicine is not recommended for adolescents and children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome (a rapidly progressive encephalopathy). Alcoholic beverages may also increase the risk of stomach bleeding, therefore, avoid consuming alcoholic beverages while you are using this medication.

Advil vs Aspirin – Differences

Both aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as Advil) reduce the clotting action of blood platelets. Also, most nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are absorbed entirely and have a negligible first-pass hepatic metabolism. In other words, the way nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are metabolized makes liver toxicity very rare.

However, NSAIDs can cause a problem with kidney function which is reversible if you stop using them. This happens because ibuprofen changes the human body’s production of prostaglandins, active lipid compounds that help keep the pressure in the kidneys at the correct level to maintain your blood pressure and filter the fluids in the body.

On the other hand, aspirin has been mass-produced for more than 100 years. It can prevent blood cells from clumping together to form clots, thereby, lowering the risk of heart attack or stroke. Also, it can be used as a cancer inhibitor drug as well as mild pain relief.

Images credit – Shutterstock & Getty

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