WELLNESS
11/07/2013 05:38 pm ET

Ibuprofen Doesn't Provide Cold Symptom Relief As Well As Acetaminophen: Study

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If you have a cold or sore throat, you might want to opt for the acetaminophen over the ibuprofen for symptom relief, a new study suggests.

Research published in the British Medical Journal shows that taking ibuprofen (commonly known by the brand name Advil) doesn't seem to relieve symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections as well as acetaminophen (commonly known by the brand name Tylenol).

Taking ibuprofen along with acetaminophen also didn't provide as many symptomatic benefits as taking acetaminophen alone, the University of Southampton researchers found.

Interestingly, people who took ibuprofen or ibuprofen with acetaminophen were more likely to come back to the doctor with new or worse symptoms, than those who took acetaminophen alone.

"This may have something to do with the fact the ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. It is possible that the drug is interfering with an important part of the immune response and leads to prolonged symptoms or the progression of symptoms in some individuals," study researcher Paul Little, a professor at the University of Southampton, said in a statement. "Although we have to be a bit cautious since these were surprise findings, for the moment I would personally not advise most patients to use ibuprofen for symptom control for coughs colds and sore throat."

The findings are based on data from 899 patients who had symptoms of a respiratory tract infection. They were prescribed either acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or both ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and were instructed to take it either as needed, or four times a day. Some patients were also told to try steam inhalation to relieve symptoms.

Researchers also found that steam inhalation didn't seem to provide any symptomatic benefits -- and in fact led to mild scalding among 2 percent of people observed in the study who used this method.

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