Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce inflammation, pain, and fever. Aleve is one of the brand names of an NSAID called naproxen sodium.

The medication is available over-the-counter (OTC).

In this article, we look at Aleve’s uses and side effects. We also cover the differences between Aleve and other NSAIDs.

pills of the NSAID Aleve lying out on a black surfaceShare on Pinterest
A doctor may prescribe Aleve to manage symptoms of headaches, muscle pain, or toothache.
Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Aleve contains naproxen sodium and is a type of NSAID. NSAIDs are a class of drugs that reduce pain and fever. They work by preventing the production of prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are compounds that can cause swelling and fever as part of the body’s response to injury or infection. By preventing the body from making prostaglandins, a person may feel a reduction in pain.

NSAIDs have a wide range of uses, and people may take them for the following conditions:

Adults should start on the lowest dosage of Aleve and take it with food. The typical dosage for OTC naproxen is 220 milligrams twice daily. However, the optimal dosage will depend on the person’s age and overall health status.

Before taking Aleve, it is important to read the instructions carefully. Anyone who still has concerns can talk to a doctor or pharmacist before taking the drug. Parents and caregivers should also talk to a doctor or pharmacist before giving Aleve to a child.

According to an older review in American Family Physician, 10–20% of people taking NSAIDs experience indigestion, stomach pain, or digestive discomfort. Other potential side effects of Aleve include:

  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • excessive thirst
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • burning or tingling sensations in the limbs
  • tinnitus or hearing problems

As Aleve can cause a range of side effects, it is important to stop taking it and to speak to a doctor if any new symptoms occur.

It is possible to develop side effects at any time while taking an NSAID. However, some evidence suggests that the risk increases with prolonged use and higher dosages.

A person is also more likely to have an adverse reaction to Aleve if they are over 60, female, or taking multiple NSAIDs, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). People should stop taking Aleve and call a doctor immediately if they experience:

  • severe stomach pain
  • heartburn
  • bloody or black, tarry stools
  • blood in the vomit or vomit that resembles coffee grounds
  • swelling in the ankles, feet, or legs
  • a sore throat, fever, chills, and signs of infection
  • changes in vision

Rarely, Aleve can cause allergic reactions. If someone develops the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing and swelling in the face, mouth, or throat, they should call 911.

In addition to side effects, Aleve can also increase the risk of some serious conditions, such as:

People should not take Aleve if they have a history of any of these medical conditions.

It is possible to overdose on Aleve. If someone takes too much of this NSAID, they should call Poison Control immediately on 1-800-222-1222. The symptoms of an Aleve overdose are:

  • dizziness
  • extreme tiredness
  • stomach pain
  • heartburn
  • nausea
  • vomiting

It is essential to call 911 straight away if someone collapses, has a seizure, becomes unconscious, or has trouble breathing.

All NSAIDs share similar side effects and risks and seem to be almost equally effective in treating pain. According to an older, 2006 study on NSAIDs and osteoarthritis, there was little measurable difference in the efficacy of different NSAIDs in treating people with this condition.

However, there are some important differences between Aleve, Tylenol, and Advil, particularly regarding how long they work for and who can take them safely. The following table displays information from the Hospital for Special Surgery:

Brand nameDrug nameAgeDuration
Tylenolacetaminophensafe for infantsshortest duration
Advilibuprofen6 months and uplasts longer than Tylenol
Alevenaproxen2 years and uplasts longer than Tylenol and Advil

The IFFGD also add that for long-term conditions that cause pain but not much inflammation, acetaminophen may be a better option than Aleve as it does not contain an anti-inflammatory component.

In March 2020, the authors of a letter in The Lancet suggested that there could be a link between the use of ibuprofen and an elevated risk of developing severe COVID-19.

After conducting a rapid review of the available evidence in April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that there is no evidence linking NSAIDs to adverse health effects in people with COVID-19.

Aleve is a brand name for the drug naproxen sodium, which is an NSAID. The drug’s primary use is to relieve pain and lower inflammation. At the right dosage, Aleve is a safe and effective way for many people to relieve short-term pain.

However, not everyone can take Aleve safely, and it may not be the best option for children, for people with conditions that cause long-term pain, and for those with a history of certain health conditions, such as stomach ulcers. A person can speak to a doctor about their options.