Ouch! That hurts! Whether it’s a headache, an earache, sore shins from the soccer field or a fall on the playground, we all feel pain from time to time.

Pain isn’t fun. In fact, it can disrupt our lives. Until it goes away, it can be… well… a real pain to deal with!

If you feel pain, you should tell your parents or an adult. Fortunately, there are many medicines — called “pain relievers” — that can help you feel better right away.

The two most common pain relievers used by kids are called “acetaminophen” (uh-see-tuh-MI-nuh-fen) and “ibuprofen” (i-byoo-PRO-fen). These medicines may go by brand names, like Tylenol® and Advil®.

When you swallow a pain reliever (either as a liquid or a pill), do you have to tell it to go to your head, your ear or your shin? Nope!

The medicine in a pain reliever doesn’t go directly to whatever part of your body is hurting. Instead, pain relievers work by going everywhere.

After you swallow a pain reliever, it goes to your stomach where it’s digested and absorbed into your bloodstream. Once it gets in your blood, the medicine travels throughout your whole body.

So how does this help that one spot where you’re hurting feel better?

When cells in your body become injured or damaged, they release a chemical called “prostaglandin” (pross-tuh-GLAN-din). Your body’s nerve endings are very sensitive to prostaglandin.

When they sense a release of prostaglandin, your nerve endings transmit a message through the nervous system to your brain, telling it where and how much an area of the body hurts. Pain relievers work — all throughout the body — by preventing injured cells from releasing prostaglandin.

When cells stop releasing prostaglandin, the nervous system stops sending pain messages to the brain. When the brain stops receiving pain messages, you stop feeling pain.

But pain isn’t always bad, even if it doesn’t feel very good. Pain is your body’s way of warning you that something is wrong so you can fix it.

If you didn’t feel pain, you might not realize that there was a problem, and it could get much worse before you notice it on your own.

 

42 Join the Discussion

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  1. Cool! Next time I take a pill, I’ll try the method that they used. For them, it seemed to work! Also, my idea for medicine-taking is you can take body spray, and make sure it gets on your skin, then it will sink in. Then, you get your medicine, and you smell good! :) (The video loaded this time.) :)

    • What a cool idea for taking medicine, Raina! Super creative! We think it would be a lot easier to spray on your medicine instead of trying to swallow pills sometimes! Way to go! :-)

    • Lots of kids have trouble taking pills, but it sounds like you know a great way to take your medicine, Steven! Thank you for commenting on this Wonder today! :-)

    • That’s a super way to make taking medicine easy, DJ! We’re glad you visited Wonderopolis and left us this helpful comment! :-)

    • Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today, Dennis! The kids in the video for today’s Wonder of the Day® use that same method for taking their medicine! We know it’s difficult to swallow pills sometimes, especially if they are large. Shaking your head must help a lot! :-)

    • That’s a super good guess, Cate. We’ll all have to check back tomorrow to see if you were right! Thank you for using the clues to try to guess what tomorrow’s Wonder will be. We think it’s fun to do that, too! :-)

    • We think being able to take your medicine through your shoes sounds super interesting, Rusty! Thanks for sharing such a clever idea with us today! :-)

  2. Another comment, just a question: Why do you require our e-mail address? It seems kind of useless, seeing as you haven’t sent me anything.

    • Thanks for WONDERing why we ask for an email address from folks who leave us a comment, Raina! An email address is a way for us to know who our Wonder Friends are, and to get in touch with them if we ever wanted to communicate in a different way than a reply to a comment they have left for us. Also, we give away participation prizes sometimes (like during our Camp What-a-Wonder adventures in the summer), so an email address is a way we can contact our Wonder Friends for fun things like that! :-)

    • We’re glad you visited this Wonder and got to learn something you’ve been WONDERing about, Carter! Thanks for leaving us a comment today! :-)

    • We knew about the marble game the ancient Greeks used to play, Brayden, but we didn’t know about crazy bones. We WONDERed a little more about them after we got your comment, and now we know! Thanks for helping us learn something new today! :-)

    • It sure helped the kids in the video, Jazzy, so maybe it will help you the next time your parents give you medicine to take, too! Thank you for stopping by Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know what you thought about this Wonder of the Day®, Zion! We really appreciate hearing from you! :-)

  3. My idea for making medicine easier to take, is to rub it into your hair like shampoo! Then it could go through your scalp and into your bloodstream and around your body. That would taste better than putting medicine in your mouth.

    • That’s an AMAZING medicine-taking invention, Zach! We think all the bubbles the medicine would make when we were washing our hair would be FUN to see! Your medicine could make someone’s hair clean and shiny AND keep their bodies healthy, too! Way to go! :-)

  4. I just got a flu shot 6 days ago and it hurt, but it helped! Wonderopolis is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I just thought of a wonder.
    Why do you count backwards after a decimal?
    Bye!

    • Thank you for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®, Charlotte! We’re sorry you had to get a shot, but we’re glad it helped keep the flu away! We think your Wonder idea ROCKS! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT attitude to have about taking medicine, Leila! We’re proud of you for realizing that sometimes you just have to do whatever the doctor or your parents suggest to help you feel better! :-)

  5. This is really cool! It is just so cool because I have been wondering about that question for a very long time. Especially when I take advil or ibuprofen. Now I do not have to wonder about that anymore. Sometimes it doesn’t make me feel any better so I think that it went to the wrong place because it did not know where to go. My dad also takes quite a few of them each day since he get very, very bad migraines. I usually take some when I get up or else I feel sick during the day at school.

    • Good morning, Annie! Thank you for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! We’re glad you visited Wonderopolis today and learned a little more about how medicine works! :-)

    • That sounds like a really awesome (and pain-free) way to take medicine, Cole! Thank you so much for sharing your invention idea with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • We think it’s awesome that you appreciate the fact that medicine and shots can help keep you healthy or make you feel better when you are ill, Rithik! Please make sure you ONLY take medicine that your parents or doctors give you! We care about all of our Wonder Friends and want you to stay safe!

  6. So I have a question actually. Why do pain medicines make you sleepy? Also, what happens to the plastic around them? ~TheQweewee

    • Hey there, TheQweeewee! What great questions! We’re not doctors here at Wonderopolis, but we do know that the capsules around most pills is actually not plastic at all! The capsules dissolve with the help of saliva and other fluids in your body. Different medications have different effects on the body, so some pain medication can have a drowsy effect in order to put your body to sleep (in order to heal). :)

  7. I had to eat them last week because I had a high fever. The pill wouldn’t go in and I finally chewed it in despair. ;( It tasted gross. Ugh. I’m glad it’s done for now. I’ll try Alyssa’s way with candies now!! I sure don’t want to chew them! :D

    • Hi Ella! Being sick is definitely no fun! But we are glad you had medicine to take to get better, even if it tastes yucky! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How does medicine know where you hurt?
  • What is prostaglandin?
  • When can pain be a good thing?

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Try It Out

When it comes to taking medicine, kids are on the front lines. When you get sick, doctors and parents are sure to come up with a medicine you need to take to feel better.

If you’re like many children, taking medicine isn’t at the top of your list of “fun” things to do. So why not do something about it?

Put on your thinking caps and brainstorm some ways you might be able to revolutionize the taking of medicine. No idea is too crazy. Think outside the (pill) box… or the (syrup) bottle.

Can you think of ways that medicine could be taken that would be different — and easier or tastier — than getting a shot or swallowing huge pills or icky-tasting liquids?

What if you could breathe in the medicine (like some asthma sufferers do with their medicine)? Or what if you could rub the medicine on your skin like lotion? What other ideas can you come up with?

If you had your choice and could invent any system for taking medicine, what would it be? Email us or post your thoughts on Facebook. We can’t wait to read about your clever and creative ideas!

 

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In National Geographic Xpeditions’ The Ocean and Human Medicine lesson, you’ll learn about two species of marine animals and their medical benefits.

 

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