Analgesics, or painkillers, are a group of drugs that are used to create analgesia (used to relieve pain in the body). Analgesic drugs help treat different parts of the body, from the central nervous system to the peripheral side. These drugs are different from anesthetics, and they sometimes relieve itchy skin. They include paracetamol, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and acetaminophen.
Pain during fever or due to some injury is initiated by the information that is sent to the brain from different parts of the body, and thus, the brain produces specific pain-stimulating signals, which are then passed on to specific parts of the body. Analgesics can include mild analgesics, strong opiates, general anesthetics, or local anesthetics. All of these analgesics work in different ways inside the body to achieve pain relief.
Mild analgesics are used for mild pain relief. They act by blocking the synthesis of prostaglandins by increasing the temperature of the body through the restriction of blood flow in the blood vessels. Mild analgesics are therefore used to reduce inflammation, fever, and pain, mostly from chickenpox. Patients with severe pain are administered strong opiates, such as morphine, codeine, etc. General anesthetics function by acting on the brain, thereby producing an insensitivity to the pain and initiating temporary unconsciousness. Some analgesics also alter the brain chemistry for producing pain relief and thus can be addictive.
Morphine is an opioid pain medication that is also sometimes called a narcotic. This medicine is used mainly to treat pain ranging from moderate to severe. For around-the-clock treatment to relieve pain, one can also go in for the extended-release form of morphine. There are certain precautions to be taken if you have been prescribed morphine. This medicine should not be taken if you are suffering from severe asthma or problems related to breathing. Also, be sure to avoid this medicine if you suffer from obstruction of the bowels or stomach blockage. There are chances that morphine can lead to slowed or stopped breathing, hence, this medicine should not be used in larger amounts or for durations longer than prescribed by the doctor. This medicine can become habit forming, so one should not share it with anyone else, especially in those who have a history of drug abuse or who are currently addicted to drugs.
Codeine is also a part of the opioid pain medication category and is sometimes termed a narcotic. This medicine is used to treat pain ranging from moderate to severe. Codeine should not be used by individuals who have trouble breathing, a blockage in the stomach or intestines, or have frequent asthma attacks. Codeine, similar to morphine, can slow down or stop one’s breathing and is also a habit-forming drug. If this medicine is misused, it can lead to an overdose, addiction, and, in severe cases, death. This can especially happen in children and in individuals who have not been prescribed this medicine. Also, it is not recommended for pregnant women, since it can lead to withdrawal symptoms in the baby. Taking this medicine along with alcohol can lead to severe consequences.
Various classes exist for analgesic drugs. Each drug is used differently to treat different types of pain, and the patient should receive the full medication to eliminate the disease. These drugs are separated depending on their chemical composition, but they can also be classified based on the many ways they are used to treat certain medical conditions, the area that the medicine will be used to treat, and, sometimes, the population that is going to use the medication.
Paracetamol is the first type of analgesic, which is mostly applied to treat fever and any pain that may result from chickenpox. This drug is primarily administered for the little pain experienced; it is not used for severe pain. Sometimes, this medication can be used to treat extreme pain when combined with an opioid pain medicine in cancer patients and, sometimes, after one has undergone an operation. The medicine can be swallowed by mouth, and it can be given to children through the rectum. It can also be given to an individual through intravenous injection. The effects can be experienced two to five hours later. Paracetamol is considered the least harmful for the majority of patients.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the second type of analgesic that help relieve pain as well as reduce fever in people. Sometimes, these drugs are used to clear up inflammation. Some of the drugs used for this purpose include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. These drugs are not addictive and thus are preferred for sick individuals.
Analgesics do not aid in fighting against the chickenpox virus since they are not antiviral medications, but they are still often used for the symptomatic management of chickenpox. This medication basically provides the patient relief from the pain that accompanies a fever during chickenpox. Children are usually not administered aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs because of their possible interactions with the infection of the necrotizing soft tissues. It is of the utmost importance to consult a doctor before consuming any type of analgesic so that complications can be prevented. Self-medicating can sometimes prove harmful for a patient with any condition, including chickenpox.
There are many patients who do not need to consume analgesics during chickenpox simply because they do not have any fever or pain. Since chickenpox is a viral infection, the best medication to treat the condition includes antiviral medications that work by attacking the virus inside the body and stopping its growth.
The viral drugs that can be used to treat the chickenpox disease include aciclovir, which is safe for newborns, pregnant women, those who have very weak immunity, and adults that get chickenpox. This type of drug is meant to be administered within a day of getting the infection and a rash appearing. The drug can treat the disease at very early stages, but, in later stages, it is used to lessen the severity of the disease.
Immunoglobulin is also used to protect against chickenpox. This varicella immunoglobulin has antibodies that fight the chickenpox virus. The drug is given to a person through intravenous injection. These drugs help protect individuals who have a very high affinity for the disease. Such people include newborn children, women who are pregnant, and people with very poor immune systems.
For women who are pregnant, this immunoglobulin is given to ensure the protection of the unborn child. These drugs are very expensive, so they are given to an individual only during periods of extreme pain. This drug helps one who has had direct contact through sneezing or coughing. He or she can also receive this drug if they were in a room for over ten minutes with someone who had the disease. Lastly, the drug can help one who never had chickenpox before, but has it now for the first time.
Let’s group the analgesics into three different categories:
- Simple analgesics
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs
Each of these groups has different drugs under them, as well as frequent additions. Below are the commonly used ones within each category:
Simple Analgesics – The commonly used analgesics are:
- Paracetamol (Nurofen)
- Aspirin (Aspro, Disprin)
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – The commonly used NSAIDs are:
- Naproxen Sodium (Naprogesic)
- Ibuprofen (Nurofen)
- Diclofenac Sodium (Voltaren)
Opioids – These are further grouped into two:
- Tramadol hydrochloride (e.g., brand names like Tramadol and Tramahexal)
- Combinations of codeine phosphate (Nurofen plus, Panadeine forte, Mersyndol)
- Dextropropoxyphene hydrochloride and paracetamol (e.g., brand names like Paradex and Di-gesic)
- Pethidine Hydrochloride
- Morphine sulphate (MS Mono, kapanol)
- Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
NSAIDs are commonly known analgesics and are easily available as over-the-counter medicines. NSAIDs are known to provide relief from pain and suppress inflammation, as well as reduce fever. These drugs work by blocking the COX, or cyclooxygenase (an enzyme available in various tissues), which produces the chemical mediators that are the main cause of inflammation, fever, and any related pain. Tylenol is also an analgesic drug which helps reduce pain, but it does not have an effect on inflammation, due to which it is not included as part of the NSAIDs. Corticosteroids or steroids cannot be exactly termed painkillers, but the medicines are anti-inflammatory. Due to this inflammatory process, they greatly help reduce pain. Opioids help relieve pain by binding the opioid receptors in the central nervous system; thus, they are also called narcotics. They provide relief from moderate to severe pain.
Many individuals can take NSAIDs and simple forms of analgesics without getting addicted to them or forming any kind of dependency. When it comes to opioids, however, there can be cases when the individual starts to be dependent on them. They can develop a tolerance level to the medications, which would result in reducing the medicine’s efficiency. Along with tolerance follows the breakthrough withdrawal, and this can lead to worse pain. One of the common examples is analgesic rebound headaches, which would lead a patient to take a greater number of pills so that the ever-increasing pain reduces. This becomes a chronic headache that is very difficult to treat. If the pain is chronic, no matter the type, such pain is difficult to treat due to the patient’s tolerance. Opioids used for a longer duration induce the development of physical dependency, hence, it is essential that one does not increase the limit of medication more than required or take the medicine for longer than recommended. Below is a list of certain problems associated with the use of analgesics:
- NSAIDs: In individuals who are already at risk, doses larger than recommended can cause severe, life-threatening effects, such as impact to the heart or blood circulation, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. With prolonged use, the risk of having a medical condition would also increase. There is potential harm to the gastrointestinal system, which would include ulcers and internal bleeding. If severe, any of these conditions can prove fatal. Also, one should note that gastrointestinal effects can occur at any time without prior warning during the intake of NSAIDs. The elderly are at a greater risk of having severe side effects of the gastrointestinal system. Longer duration of use can lead to kidney damage, too.
- Paracetamol: Paracetamol is deemed a harmless medicine, even if it is used for a longer period of time at the recommended daily dose. If the dosage is increased, then, due to the higher dosage, the liver and kidneys can be harmed. In certain rare cases, it can lead to heart failure. Paracetamol dosages can also lead to potential damage to the auditory nerves.
- Aspirin: Aspirin has not been recommended as an ideal medicine for children or pregnant women. It is also not recommended for those suffering from certain medical conditions, such as stomach ulcers or asthma. Aspirin taken in doses greater than recommended can lead to kidney damage.
Various types of analgesics can be used to obtain relief from the pain and fever associated with chickenpox.