Advil or Tylenol?

What should I take if I have a cold or flu?

Ava Kavianpour (Get Well Clinic)

Which should I take? Which is better? What’s the difference? These are questions you’ve probably asked yourself that led you to this article. In short, both relieve pain. The way they relieve pain and the type of pain they relieve is where these drugs differ.

Advil, also known as ibuprofen, is under a category of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), and they decrease inflammation. Advil reduces pain by reducing inflammation through blocking the chemical prostaglandin. Prostaglandins are chemicals produced by the body that cause inflammation. Through stopping inflammation, Advil also reduces fever.


Tylenol is a drug that is also known as an acetaminophen. There is little anti-inflammatory response, which is what makes it different from advil. Doctors are not sure how acetaminophen works though they think it increases your pain threshold so you feel less pain.

Which should you use?

For headache, common cold or fever it’s your preference. If you have a muscle ache or pulled/strained muscle it is recommended to use Advil because it an anti-inflammatory.


There has been recent news about Advil vs Tylenol when it comes to COVID-19. Currently, there is no scientific evidence that Advil (NSAID) will worsen symptoms of COVID-19. If you would like to read more about the this topic, read this article from Public Health Toronto.

Even before COVID-19, there were certain precautions regarding the use of NSAIDs like Advil that should still apply if you suffer from COVID-19. If you are at risk for stomach problems (like stomach ulcers, reflux, gastritis), or have kidney problems (such as those with diabetes, or chronic kidney disease), or have hypertension, you should consult with your doctor before using Advil because prolonged use could aggravate some of these conditions. If you become dehydrated (ie. not drinking enough water while you are sick), Advil could worsen the harm to your kidneys brought on by dehydration.

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