What to know about Advil and Aleve: Differences and similarities

Advil and Aleve are two over-the-counter ( OTC) medicines that belong to a family of medications called anti-inflammatory nonsteroidal medications (NSAIDs).

People can take these medicines to help lower inflammation and pain, or to help manage fever.

This article offers information about how Advil and Aleve are operating, and discusses their similarities and differences. It also explains how to take each drug safely.

What are they?

Although Advil and Aleve can both reduce inflammation and pain, the intended uses and dosages differ.
Although Advil and Aleve can both reduce inflammation and pain, the intended uses and dosages differ.

Advil is Drug ibuprofen’s brand name, and Aleve is the drug naproxen’s brand name. NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen.

Physicians prescribe NSAIDs to help relieve inflammation , pain and fever.

Individuals can use Advil and Aleve to:

  • muscle pain
  • menstrual pain
  • headaches
  • migraine episodes
  • arthritis and arthrosis
  • gout

What are their similarities, and differences?

The parts below outline some of the Advil and Aleve similarities and differences.

Relationships

Drugs may belong to different groups within the NSAID family, depending on their chemical structure. Advil and Aleve have identical chemical structures. They contain propionic acids.

Another class of NSAIDs coincides with the drug’s selectivity for the enzyme cyclooxygenase, or COX. This enzyme is a part of the inflammatory process. Both Advil and Aleve are non-selective NSAIDs, meaning they can bind to both the COX-1 enzymes and COX-2.

Differences

Advil and Aleve are very different as to their intended use. Also, the two medications vary in terms of length of action and prescribed dosages.

Learn more about those discrepancies in the following sections.

Indications

While ibuprofen and naproxen are both NSAIDs, each drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) for different indications.

The following table lists these indications.

IbuprofenNaproxen
FDA-approved indicationsfever
mild-to-moderate pain
painful menstruation
inflammatory diseases
arthrosis
rheumatoid disorders
closure of patent ductus arteriosus in premature infants
painful menstruation
rheumatoid arthritis
pain
juvenile idiopathic arthritis
arthrosis
tendinitis
acute gout
bursitis
ankylosing spondylitis

Duration of action

Their length of operation is one big difference between Advil and Aleve.

Advil has a shorter period of action, usually causing people to take regular doses every 4–8 hours, if required.

Aleve has a longer period of action, with people usually having to take the drug twice daily if needed. In a 24-hour cycle people shouldn’t exceed three tablets.

The difference in period of action is due to the half-life of of drug. A drug’s half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for the body to remove half of the absorbed medication.

Advil has a half-life of 1.5 to 2 hours for adults, while Aleve has a half-life of 12–17 hours.

Dosages

Advil and Aleve dosages are different too. The effective ibuprofen dose begins at 200–400 milligrams ( mg), whereas the effective naproxen dose begins at 220–440 mg.

The daily ibuprofen dose limit for OTC use is 1,200 mg per day, whereas the daily naproxen limit depends on what a person uses it to.

Doctors can prescribe increased dosage of either drug if necessary.

What do they do?

Advil and Aleve are working to inhibit the COX enzyme which produces prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are substances the body produces to help cure injury or illness. They cause inflammation and fever too, though.

Two COX enzymes are generated by the body: COX-1 and COX-. Both play a role in the response to inflammation in the body. COX-2 also plays a part in preserving stomach lining and facilitating blood coagulation.

Advil and Aleve block COX-1 and COX-2, demonstrating their preventive action against pain and inflammation. It also describes some of these drugs’ potential side effects which may include:

  • digestive issues
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • kidney diseases

People with a history of digestive system, heart, or kidney-involving medical conditions should talk to a doctor before taking Advil or Aleve. These NSAIDs can make those conditions worse.

Can I take them together?

People should stop taking Advil and Aleve together.

Because both drugs act on the enzymes COX-1 and COX-2, there is no advantage in combining these. People may combine an NSAID with acetaminophen when necessary, since these drugs have different mechanisms of action to treat pain and fever.

Combining Advil and Aleve can put people at risk of additional side effects without improving the efficacy of either drug. Side effects of taking NSAIDs high or a combination of NSAIDs include:

  • decreased kidney function
  • stomach and intestinal bleeding
  • decreased blood clotting ability and increased bleeding time

How to take them safely

They need to decide, before a person takes an OTC NSAID, whether or not the medication is safe for them to take.

People with underlying medical conditions might need to talk to a doctor before they take Advil or Aleve.

The following groups are not suited to NSAIDs:

  • people in their third trimester of pregnancy
  • people who are sensitive to NSAIDs or salicylates
  • people who have previously experienced an allergic reaction after taking an NSAID
  • people who have undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgery

People who are capable of taking NSAIDs need to ensure they are taking a healthy dose. Most adults can take ibuprofen up to 1,200 mg per 24 hours. Every 24 hours people can take up to 600 mg of Aleve. Anyone should never mix these medications, however.

Doctors and pharmacists recommend taking NSAIDs with food to reduce the influence of the digestive side effects.

When to see a doctor

An individual should see a doctor if he or she experiences side effects when taking an NSAID or takes more than the prescribed dose.

Children can experience overdose symptoms, depending on how often they have taken Advil or Aleve. Experts suggest that kids who take over 400 mg of ibuprofen per kilogram of body weight can develop life threatening toxicity.

But a precise toxic level for symptomatic overdose in adults has not yet been identified.

Because both Advil and Aleve are NSAIDs with propionic acid, their toxic effects could be similar. They can, for example, both trigger seizures and cause metabolic acidosis. This is the medical term for a toxic acid accumulation inside the blood.

Most people don’t experience side effects unless they take too much ibuprofen. If signs do occur , they usually take place within 4 hours of overdosing.

Toxicity with ibuprofen can cause the following symptoms:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • bright red or dark blood in the feces
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • rapid breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or pressure
  • swelling in the legs or ankles
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • coma

Summary

Advil and Aleve are both NSAIDs which treat inflammation and pain effectively. Likewise, both drugs can help lower body temperature and reduce fever.

People should not take Advil and Aleve together because the COX enzymes are both attacking drugs. Taking the two drugs together therefore doesn’t offer any extra benefit and only raises the risk of side effects.

NSAIDs aren’t suitable for people with certain underlying health conditions during the third trimester of pregnancy.

If in doubt, a person should speak with their doctor or pharmacist to decide whether taking an NSAID is safe for them or not.

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