SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Open up your medicine cabinet and take a look. Here’s a quick quiz: ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin? If you have a headache or a sore muscle, which one is the best for you? They all relieve pain but there are subtle differences.

Ibuprofen and aspirin reduce pain by fighting inflammation, whereas acetaminophen, like Tylenol, works on the parts of the brain that receive “pain messages.”

Aspirin works the fastest but ibuprofen is the strongest. If you have stomach problems and don’t drink a lot of alcohol, acetaminophen is safer.

Always read the label and follow the directions before taking any medication. Over time, over-the-counter pain relievers lose their effectiveness and may even cause more headaches.

Also, check out some of the many reputable websites for more background information on taking medication in safe manner, including: the Medicine Safety Toolkit, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, Safe Medication put out by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, as well as WebMD.

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