If you experience migraines or severe headaches, chances are that you may take a pain medicine that contains caffeine. The reason manufacturers include caffeine in their migraine medicines is that caffeine typically helps the other drugs in the formula work faster, the Cleveland Clinic notes. However, caffeine has its own side effects as a central nervous system stimulant, such as anxiety and irritability, that you may not want. You have over-the-counter headache pain medicine options that do not contain caffeine.
Standard formulations of acetaminophen do not contain caffeine. You must check the labels, however, because not all products that have the word acetaminophen on their labels contain only that drug. This non-narcotic analgesic medicine works to suppress the pain response in your central nervous system just as narcotics do. However, unlike narcotics, acetaminophen does not lead to addiction. This medicine does have potentially serious side effects if you overdose on it. MayoClinic.com states that you can recognize an overdose of acetaminophen if you get such symptoms as abdominal edema, stomach discomfort such as nausea, diarrhea and an increase in sweating. You should follow the label recommendations with this or any medication for use. Get medical help if you believe you have taken too much acetaminophen.
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Most OTC pain relievers are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. These kinds of medicines, including naproxen sodium, work by reducing inflammation that can cause pain. Standard naproxen sodium does not contain caffeine and may help relieve headache pain. Like all OTC pain medications, however, you should look at the label for the ingredients. Different manufacturers may include substances, such as caffeine, other than just naproxen sodium in their drugs. Naproxen can induce some serious side effects, Drugs.com notes. These can include breathing problems, chest pain, seizures and flu-like symptoms, among others. Get help from your doctor if you have severe side effects when taking this drug.
Ibuprofen is also an NSAID and works to reduce inflammation. This, in turn, can relieve pain throughout your body, including headaches. Although ibuprofen is one of the most common OTC pain relievers, MedlinePlus warns that it and other NSAIDs put you at higher risk of having strokes or heart attacks, especially if you take them for an extended period. Ibuprofen in straight formulations does not contain caffeine.
The oldest medical NSAID, aspirin also can help relieve headache pain without the use of caffeine. However, aspirin may be an ingredient in other pain medicines that do include caffeine. To avoid ingesting caffeine, make certain you examine the label and purchase only straight aspirin. Aspirin can cause you to bleed internally as a side effect. You may notice blood in your urine or stools, or you may produce vomit that includes blood. Aspirin also can cause breathing difficulties and swelling. Consult your physician at once if you develop any of these serious side effects.