Are Any Painkillers Safe?

That's the No. 1 question we got in response to our essay, "The Most Popular Painkiller in America Is Deadly."

Today, we're sharing the story of a subscriber who experienced the dangers of too much acetaminophen firsthand. And we talk about whether or not you should use the second-most popular painkiller...

We also share a tip on how to make the most of your money with credit cards.

Have any topics you'd like us to cover? Send your suggestions to [email protected].

Q: Great article. I wish I had seen this article about three weeks ago, when I figured out that swelling itchy hands and feet, then my lips and cheeks turning red and swollen, was due to an acetaminophen overdose.

I had been sick with a sinus infection for two months, then fell and broke my wrist. I had no idea that Nyquil and Dayquil contained the drug. Then my doctor had me taking the 650 mg Arthritis Tylenol along with Hydrocodone for my wrist, which I did not realize contained acetaminophen.

It was definitely a lesson learned. I'm now working on trying to detox my liver! – S.W.

A: I'm sorry that was such a hard lesson for you to learn. I hope your recovery goes well.

But thank you for sharing your story. Your situation highlights the biggest risk of taking acetaminophen... It's in hundreds of products, including ones you wouldn't think have acetaminophen. And some people don't think taking too much of an over-the-counter painkiller is dangerous.

A host of surveys over the years – including a recent survey from the University of Alabama – found that people see dosage information on OTC painkillers as guidelines. And that there's no harm in taking a couple more pills. The research we've seen doesn't support this notion.

Make sure to read the labels when you're taking cold, flu, or pain medication. It's likely you'll find acetaminophen there.

Q: What is your opinion about naproxen sodium (Aleve) as a replacement? – G.S.

A: The two main types of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

As the name suggests, NSAIDs don't just relieve pain... they're also anti-inflammatory, making them a popular choice for pain stemming from issues like arthritis and muscle sprains.

The risk people associate most with NSAIDs is upper-gastrointestinal bleeding. Non-aspirin NSAIDs – like ibuprofen – increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. While aspirin reduces blood clotting, non-aspirin NSAIDs can cause clotting.

As I mentioned in the essay, I prefer using Excedrin when I really need a painkiller. The key is to moderate your painkiller intake. Pay close attention to the dosage limits on the bottle.

Q: I've received $1,220 in cash back from using my cash-back cards this year. I use a Citi Double cash-back card that pays 2% for most everyday purchases. I use a Chase Freedom card in calendar quarters when it pays me 5% at gas stations. I use a Chase Ink card for my cable, telephone, and Internet bills that pays me 5% back on these services. When my Chase card isn't paying 5% back on gas, I use a Bank America Card that pays me 3% on gas purchases. I pay off the balances on these cards every month. – D.K.

A: I'm happy to hear you're making the most of your money and using credit cards responsibly.

I use several rewards cards... One is an airline card that allows me to earn airline miles. My assistant and Retirement Millionaire Daily managing editor Laura uses a cash-rewards credit card. This card lets her trade in rewards for gift cards and other items.

I like to keep cash on me for emergency purposes, although I only use it when necessary. For example, if the place where I'm having lunch only takes cash, I can't use a card. But otherwise, I almost always use a rewards card.

Paying off your balance each month – like you're doing – is essential... Carrying a balance (and paying the interest) can outweigh any rewards you'd get.

We included several good rewards credit cards in our essay. is another great resource if you're looking for a rewards card.

Q: May I send this to my friends? – B.B.

A: Of course! Feel free to pass on our Retirement Millionaire Daily e-mails to your friends and family. Or direct them to our website, Facebook, or Twitter.

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