Can You Take Motrin and Tylenol Together?

Usually, healthcare providers try to limit polypharmacy, or your exposure to excess or redundant medications. Thus, if you present with a sore throat that needs antibiotics, you'll receive a prescription for one type of antibiotic, not a prescription for several types of antibiotics.

But does this guidance apply to over-the-counter pain medications, too?

Polypharmacy Risks

Verywell / Jessica Olah

Risks of Polypharmacy

Polypharmacy is problematic for a number of reasons:

  • The more medications that you take, the greater the risk of adverse effects or drug-drug interactions.
  • You may accidentally take two drugs that both contain the same ingredient (such as acetaminophen), increasing your risk of toxicity.
  • Polypharmacy often represents a scattered approach to treatment, allowing treatment overlap and often undermining one drug therapy with another.
  • Polypharmacy can present a risk to public health when the haphazard use of antibiotics and other drugs lead to widespread drug resistance and the possible development of superbugs.

However, there are some exceptions: A healthcare provider may sometimes recommend a combination of both Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Motrin (ibuprofen).

Some evidence suggests prolonged use of Tylenol and Motrin together may increase the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding more than Motrin alone. However, their combined use can sometimes reduce pain enough that you don't need stronger opioid medications.

About Tylenol

Tylenol is a type of analgesic that changes the way we perceive pain and lowers the temperature of our bodies (antipyretic). It is often combined with other medications to develop different pain formulations.

Although the exact mechanism of Tylenol remains unclear, we believe this medication works by inhibiting cyclo-oxygenase (primarily COX-2).

Because Tylenol is metabolized in part by the liver, people with liver issues must take lower dosages than typically prescribed and closely follow any specific recommendations from their healthcare provider.

Tylenol should be taken for pain no longer than 10 days unless prescribed by a healthcare provider.

About Motrin

Motrin is an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Like Tylenol, it exerts its effects on cyclo-oxygenase and inhibits prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins mediate pain, inflammation, and fever.

Inhibition in prostaglandin synthesis also results in vasoconstriction and renal impairment which can lead to kidney failure.

Thus, people with kidney problems should steer clear of Motrin. NSAIDs also should only be used for 10 days unless prescribed by a healthcare provider.

As with other NSAIDs, such as aspirin and Aleve (naproxen), Motrin may cause stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding if overused.

Combining Tylenol and Motrin

Interestingly, despite being a common practice, very little research has been done on the co-administration of Tylenol and Motrin.

Some of the earliest research was conducted among children. However, it's hard to draw exact correlations between pain and fever relief in children and that of adults.

Specifically, children who are prescribed both Tylenol and Motrin for pain and fever usually receive these medications as alternate dosages.

A small study conducted by the University of Auckland suggested that, when taken together in mixed formulation called Maxigesic, acetaminophen and ibuprofen provided better pain relief than using the drugs on their own.

Similarly, results from a systematic review published in 2010 suggested that the combination of acetaminophen and an NSAID was more effective together than alone.

As noted above, the combination of the two drugs may increase the risk of upper GI bleeding. Keeping the total dose of Tylenol to less than 2 grams per day may prevent this added risk.

Opioids With Tylenol or Motrin

Opioid abuse is on the rise, and we are currently in the throes of a national crisis. Opioids are prescription medications that have serious long-term side effects and a high potential for dependence and abuse.

Furthermore, certain opioid formulations contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen, such as:

If these drugs are taken with additional Tylenol or Motrin, they can increase the risk of serious side effects, including:

  • Liver toxicity
  • Liver failure
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Kidney injury

A Word From Verywell

While acetaminophen and ibuprofen are relatively safe and effective when used together, there are considerations you need to make.

To avoid overuse, always check the label of any multi-symptom cold, flu, or allergy remedy you may be taking. Many of these contain acetaminophen or an NSAID for added pain relief.

It is also important to remember that Tylenol or Motrin are only intended for short-term use. If your pain persists, call your healthcare provider. If you have liver or kidney problems, you should talk to your healthcare provider first before taking Tylenol or Motrin.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Food and Drug Administration. Drug Interactions: What You Should Know.

  3. Martínez-múgica C. [Potential antimicrobial drug interactions in clinical practice: consequences of polypharmacy and multidrug resistance]. Rev Esp Quimioter. 2015;28(6):282-8.

  4. Ong, C.; Seymour, R.; Lirk, P. et al. Combining paracetamol (acetaminophen) with nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs: a qualitative systematic review of analgesic efficacy for acute postoperative pain. Anesth Analg. 2010;110(4):1170-9. doi:10.1213/ANE.0b013e3181cf9281

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  6. Li Y, Xia W, Zhao F, et al. Prostaglandins in the pathogenesis of kidney diseases. Oncotarget. 2018;9(41):26586-26602. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.25005

  7. Goldstein JL, Cryer B. Gastrointestinal injury associated with NSAID use: a case study and review of risk factors and preventative strategiesDrug Healthc Patient Saf. 2015;7:31-41. doi:10.2147/DHPS.S71976

  8. Merry AF, Gibbs RD, Edwards J, et al. Combined acetaminophen and ibuprofen for pain relief after oral surgery in adults: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Anaesth. 2010;104(1):80-8. doi:10.1093/bja/aep338

  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Opioids Crisis: Help and Resources.

  10. HealthLink, Government of Alberta. Substance Use: Common Drugs.

Additional Reading

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS
Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, is a medical writer and editor covering new treatments and trending health news.