Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and other medicines carry surprisingly serious health risks
Is there anyone who actually reads all the fine print that comes with over-the-counter or even common prescription drugs, really? After all, you know the gist, like to not mix medications or to avoid dosing and driving. Turns out, there's some serious info in that fine print: The pills you pop can carry more side effects than you realize. Here are the unexpected consequences that can come from taking four common meds.
If you’ve ever had bronchitis or any respiratory infection that required antibiotics, you’ve probably been prescribed amoxicillin. But when compared to a placebo, the drug is twice as likely to cause diarrhea; it also increases your chances of developing thrush, a type of yeast infection that affects the mouth, found a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. If your doctor prescribes you amoxicillin, ask about what you can do to minimize your chances of diarrhea and thrush; taking a daily probiotic along with the antibiotic may help.
This drug—commonly known by it's brand name, Tylenol—is so ubiquitous, most of us don’t think twice about swallowing one or two to blot out a headache, menstrual cramps, or DOMS (that's delayed onset muscle soreness). But pairing the painkiller with alcohol can increase your risk of liver failure by up to 123 percent, according to research presented at the American Public Health Association’s 2013 annual meeting. So if you’re a regular drinker (you have one or two drinks most days a week), steer clear of Tylenol, and vice versa. Also smart: Never exceed the recommended limit of 4 grams a day. Taking just a bit more for a few days in a row can trigger an accidental overdose, which killed more than 1,500 Americans between 2001 and 2010—more than any other OTC painkiller, according to information from ProPublica.
So you swear off Tylenol and reach for the ibuprofen, right? Proceed with caution. Popping the painkiller before a workout can lead to stomach problems down the road, according to research from the Netherlands. How? When you exercise, blood is directed away from your GI tract, resulting in some permeability in the cells lining your intestines (which can lead to leakage). Ibuprofen is already rough on your gut, so taking it before you work out exacerbates this GI damage, increasing your risk of serious issues and pain. The takeaway? Skip the pre-workout painkiller. Try one of these 6 Unconventional Ways to Treat Sore Muscles instead.
Prescription sleeping pills
Taking as few as 18 sleeping pills a year (which is just a little more than one a month) is associated with an increase in your risk of death by 3.5-fold, found researchers from the University of California, San Diego. Study authors note that their research only showed an association, not a cause-and-effect link between sleeping pills and death. But consider other sleep aids, like natural supplements (including melatonin), light therapy, or meditation, and reach for pills only as a last resort. (Here's more advice on How To Fall Sleep Fast.)