Difference between Advil and Tylenol

Updated on April 10, 2017

Often when we experience certain types of pain, headaches, or fever, we rely on over-the-counter medicines. Two of the popular over-the-counter brands for pain relief are Advil and Tylenol. Either of these medicines would be present in most household medicine cabinets. They are regarded as effective and trusted brands. This article will tell you more about Advil and Tylenol and help you understand their main differences.



Advil is a brand of pain reliever that can be bought without a prescription. It is manufactured and distributed by Pfizer. The main pain reliever that is in Advil is ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used to address fever, pain, and inflammation. Apart from the usual headaches and menstrual cramps, ibuprofen is also effective in decreasing the inflammation of strained muscles and joints caused by certain injuries. Ibuprofen was discovered in 1961 by Stewart Adams. It was then called Brufen. Currently, ibuprofen (together with paracetamol) is on the model list of essential medicines for pain and palliative care made by the World Health Organization. Ibuprofen was made available in the United States in 1974 but it was ten years later (in 1984) when Pfizer introduced the drug (ibuprofen) and labeled it Advil.

Brand positioning and products

Advertising campaigns for Advil often talk about product strength and efficacy. They say that Advil delivers stronger, faster and longer-lasting relief from pain. Some of Advil’s recent ads mention, “Relief doesn’t get any better than this.” It is a short-acting NSAID, meaning it takes effect quickly and the effect lasts up to six hours. This medicine can be given every four to six hours. The maximum recommended daily dosage, however, is 1200 mg and must not be exceeded without first consulting a doctor. Advil comes in different forms: tablets, caplets, gel caplets, and liquid filled. They also have specific products targeted for specific types of pain like Advil Migraine and Advil Menstrual Pain.

Side effects

When taking Advil, one must be mindful of certain side effects, especially when the person taking it has other health concerns. Ibuprofen affects platelet function, which is responsible for blood clotting. If someone is bleeding from an injury, ibuprofen should be used with caution. Moreover, people who suffer from stomach problems, heartburn, and high blood pressure must first consult the doctor before taking any form of ibuprofen. Ibuprofen affects the stomach lining and can cause gastrointestinal upset. This can also lead to an increase in blood pressure. So, it is important to discuss dosing adjustments or limitations before taking this type of medicine.


Tylenol is an over-the-counter medicine which can be used to relieve fever and pain and address the symptoms of colds and allergies. It is manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare which is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Tylenol is acetaminophen or paracetamol. Acetaminophen is effective in relieving aches and pains as well as mild forms of arthritis. This type of medicine is safe for children and for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. It cannot, however, address problems with inflammation. In 1955, Tylenol was introduced in the United States by McNeil Laboratories. They learned about the benefits of paracetamol but needed to differentiate themselves from aspirin. They then thought of two names derived from the chemical name of the drug, which is N-aceTYL-para-aminophENOL. Hence, they came up with the brand name “Tylenol” and the generic name “acetaminophen.” In 1959, McNeil Laboratories was acquired by Johnson & Johnson and in the following year, Tylenol became an over-the-counter drug.

Brand positioning and products

Initially, the McNeils sold Tylenol as a medicine to address fever among children. It was creatively packaged like a red fire truck with the catchphrase “for little hotheads.” Currently, advertising efforts for the brand focus on making people feel better, getting more sleep, and being able to go back to their normal selves. The brand lives by the motto, “For what matters most.” Tylenol is a short-acting drug which provides quick relief. The effect lasts up to four hours. This medicine can be given every four to six hours but must not exceed the maximum dose of 4000 mg per day. In some cases, the maximum dose is 3000 mg per day, depending on a person’s health quality and upon consultation with a doctor. Tylenol is available in varied forms: tablets, caplets, liquid gels, oral suspension, and chewables. Apart from the regular headache and pain relief products, they also have products for arthritis pain, sinus, cold and flu, sleep and pain, and children and infants.

Side effects

When taking Tylenol or acetaminophen, one has to have caution as it can cause liver damage. This occurs among people who take more than the recommended dosage and for longer periods of time. The drug is metabolized by the liver and will cause complications when the person taking it has certain liver conditions like hepatitis. A consultation with a doctor is best to determine a safe dosage. This medicine must also not be taken with any kind of alcohol and must be avoided or used sparingly by those with alcohol-related liver damage.

Advil vs Tylenol

What is the difference between Advil and Tylenol? Advil’s generic name is ibuprofen while Tylenol’s generic name is acetaminophen or paracetamol. Advil provides quick relief from fever, pain, and inflammation. It is effective for sprains and sore muscles. Tylenol, on the other hand, provides quick relief from fever, pain, and mild forms of arthritis. It can also relieve symptoms of colds and allergies. Advil is a drug that is not advised for children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding moms. Conversely, it is safe for all of these groups to take Tylenol. The recommended dosage limit per day for Advil is 1200 mg, which is much lower than Tylenol’s 4000 mg limit per day. Advil must be avoided or used sparingly by those with kidney and stomach problems, while Tylenol is typically not suited for people with liver problems.

Comparison Chart

Advil Tylenol
Advil’s generic name is IbuprofenTylenol’s generic name is Acetaminophen or Paracetamol
Relieves fever, pain, and inflammation (effective for sprains and sore muscles)Relieves fever, pain, mild forms of arthritis, and addresses symptoms of colds and allergies
Not advised for children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothersSafe for children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers
Maximum dose is 1200 mg per dayMaximum dose is 4000 mg per day; in some cases, a lower dosage must be followed (not more than 3000 mg per day)
Should be avoided by those with kidney and stomach problemsShould be avoided by those with liver problems and must never be mixed with alcohol


Watch this video to hear about the difference between Advil and Tylenol.