Ibuprofen

Sounds like 'Ib-u-pro-fen'

Easy-to-read medicine information about Ibuprofen – what it is, how to take Ibuprofen safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicineAlso called
  • Analgesics (pain killer)
  • Antipyretic (to control fever)
  • Anti-inflammatory (reduces pain and swelling)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID)  
  • Ibugesic®
  • I-Profen®
  • Nurofen®
  • Advil®
  • ACT-3®
  • Medix®

Ibuprofen is also contained in some other medications such as:

  • Nurofen Plus®
  • Maxigesic®
  • Nurofen Cold and Flu®

What is ibuprofen?

  • Ibuprofen is one of a group of medicines known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Ibuprofen is used to treat different types of pain such as headache, migraine, dental pain, back pain or muscle pain, and pain resulting from injury. Read more about pain
  • It also helps to ease redness, and swelling, and to treat fever.

Dose

  • Ibuprofen is available in different brands and strengths.
  • The lower strength (200 mg) tablets can be bought from a supermarket or over-the-counter from a pharmacy. 
  • The higher strength tablets (400 mg, 600 mg, 800 mg) tablets can only be bought on prescription from a pharmacy.
  • The usual dose for adults is 200 mg to 400 mg 3 or 4 times daily if needed.
  • Do not take more than 1200 mg per day without checking with your doctor.
  • Use the lowest dose that works for you and stop as soon as you can.
  • The dose will be different to this if you have been prescribed a tablet which releases ibuprofen slowly; this is called a modified-released tablet.
  • Always follow the directions on the package or pharmacy label. If you are unsure about how much to take, check with your pharmacist.

How to take ibuprofen

  • Take ibuprofen with food or immediately after food, to prevent stomach upset.
  • Take ibuprofen with a full glass of water.
  • Swallow the tablets whole. Do not crush or chew them.
  • Usually you may only need to take ibuprofen for a short period of time, while you have pain or swelling.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol while you are taking ibuprofen. Alcohol can increase the risk of stomach side effects. 
  • It is not harmful if you miss your ibuprofen dose. If you miss a dose, take it when you remember, with or after food. Do not take double the dose.

Take care

  • For most people, taking ibuprofen is safe. However, extra care is needed if you:
    • have high blood pressure
    • have high cholesterol
    • have diabetes
    • have heart failure or heart disease
    • your kidneys do not work very well  
    • smoke.
  • Discuss with your doctor if taking ibuprofen is suitable for you.
  • Non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, either of which can lead to death. These serious side effects can occur as early as the first weeks of using an NSAID and the risk may increase the longer you are taking an NSAID.
  • The risk appears greater at higher doses (such as ibuprofen 2400 mg per day); use the lowest effective amount for the shortest possible time. 
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you experience symptoms such as:
    • chest pain
    • shortness of breath or trouble breathing
    • sudden weakness or numbness in one part or side of the body
    • sudden slurred speech.
  • Many medicines contain NSAIDs, including those used for colds, flu, so it is important to read the labels and avoid taking multiple medicines that contain NSAIDs.
  • Also see Ibuprofen patient information guide  SafeRx, Waitemata DHB, 2013.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, ibuprofen can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine.

Side effectsWhat should I do?
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Take ibuprofen with food
  • Serious stomach problems such as really bad stomach pain, blood in the stool, black or dark colour in your stool, cough or vomit up blood, or dark coloured vomit
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine on 0800 611 116
  • Signs of allergic reaction such as skin rashes, itching, swelling of the face, lips, mouth or have problems breathing, like a tight chest or shortness of breath
  •  Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine on 0800 611 116
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Weakness in one part or side of the body
  • Slurred speech
  •  Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine on 0800 611 116

Interactions

  • Ibuprofen interacts with some important medications, so check with your doctor or pharmacist:
  • Do not take other NSAID medication such as diclofenac or naproxen while taking ibuprofen.

Learn more

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: Ibuprofen

References

  1. Ibuprofen and cardiovascular safety Medsafe Safety Information, 17 June 2015

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr Janine Bycroft, GP, Health Navigator NZ Last reviewed: 13 Jul 2015