For many years aspirin has been seen as a wonder drug for treating many different conditions including headaches. Today however there are a number of other drugs which are being used in place of aspirin and one of these is Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and, like aspirin, it is its ability to reduce inflammation which makes it effective in treating headaches, because it is inflammation which helps to generate the nerve signals we perceive as pain.
Ibuprofen is used today to treat a wide range of conditions and, just like aspirin, it can be very effective but can also produces a number of unwanted side-effects such as stomach upset, blood in the stools and occasionally dizziness. Additional side effects include a range of allergic reactions which can lead to swelling of the throat or tongue, fluid retention and ringing in the ears.
Because Ibuprofen also affects the consistency of the blood it should be used with care by people with high blood pressure and certain heart conditions, as well as by people suffering from ulcers and liver or kidney disease. In all of these cases you should consult your doctor before taking Ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen should also be avoided during pregnancy. Although it is relatively safe during the early stages of pregnancy its use later on, and especially during the third trimester, can lead to birth defects. Accordingly, Ibuprofen should not be taken by pregnant women except on the express advice of a physician.
In all cases the side-effects of Ibuprofen can be reduced, or indeed eliminated in most people, by ensuring that you do not exceed the stated dosage and take the pills, or liquid medication, with plenty of water or milk. Additionally, do not combine Ibuprofen with alcohol or take it along with other over-the-counter medications such as aspirin. Indeed, as a general rule you should not take Ibuprofen with any other medication unless you are certain that it is safe to do so and, where you are not sure, consult your physician or pharmacist.
One of the great strengths of Ibuprofen is that it can be used to treat a wide range of headaches and, in particular, studies have shown that high altitude headaches (sometimes referred to as acute mountain sickness) respond particularly well to this drug. That means that it is not only very useful to the relatively small number of mountaineers, but also to the millions of us who fly frequently either for business or on holiday.
So, should you reach for the aspirin or Ibuprofen? There is no easy answer to this question and it really comes down to comparing the side effects of the two in your own personal case and then simply deciding which works best for you in treating your headaches.