Ibuprofen for children

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

What is ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen belongs to a group of medicines known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen is used to treat different types of pain, such as pain from inflammation (redness and swelling) and pain from injury. Ibuprofen can also help to reduce fever. Read more about fever in children.

Does my child need ibuprofen?

  • Ibuprofen may be used if your child needs pain relief or if your child has a fever (temperature over 38.5°C) and is miserable.
  • It is not recommended to give ibuprofen before or after regular vaccinations unless your child is in pain or is miserable.

Ibuprofen should start to work quite quickly. Your child should feel less pain 20–30 minutes after taking ibuprofen.

  • Use ibuprofen only if necessary, and for the shortest period of time to reduce fever or pain.
  • It is important to see a doctor if your child needs to take ibuprofen for more than 2 days, or if it is not working.
  • For some types of long-term inflammation and pain such as arthritis, your child will need to take ibuprofen regularly.

Safety information: before giving ibuprofen to your child

Get advice from your doctor before giving ibuprofen to: 

  • babies under 2 years of age
  • children who have asthma 
  • children who have stomach problems
  • children who have kidney or heart problems
  • children who have allergic reactions to aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medicines. 

Medicines that have ibuprofen in them

Ibuprofen is available as liquid, tablets, including chewable tablets and capsules. These come in different strengths and some may be purchased from a pharmacy or supermarket without a prescription. Always check that the strength you are giving your child is safe for their age and weight. Make sure you are not giving 2 medicines that both have ibuprofen in them. Examples of medicines that have ibuprofen in them include:

  • Fenpaed®
  • Nurofen For Children®
  • Advil®
  • Nurofen®.

How to give ibuprofen to children

Dose

  • The dose for each child is based on their age and weight. Do not use the same dose for other children unless they are the same age and weight.
  • If you are giving ibuprofen to your child, and are unsure of how much to give, always check with your pharmacist. 
  • When measuring the dose of liquid ibuprofen, measure the right amount using an oral syringe or medicine spoon. You can get these from your pharmacy. Do not use a kitchen spoon as it will not give you the right amount. Read more: tips on how to give medicines to babies and children.

Timing

Ibuprofen is usually given 3 or 4 times a day. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how often to give it.

  • 3 times each day: this should be once in the morning, once in the early afternoon and once in the evening. Wait at least 6 hours before giving the next dose, for example 8 am, 2 pm and 8 pm.
  • 4 times a day: this is usually first thing in the morning, at about midday, late in the afternoon and at bedtime. Wait at least 4 hours before giving the next dose, for example, 8 am, midday, 4 pm and 8 pm.

It is best to give ibuprofen with, or just after, a meal so that it does not upset your child’s stomach. 

Strength

Ibuprofen is available as liquid, tablets, including chewable tablets and capsules. These come in different strengths. Always check that the strength you are giving your child is safe for their age and weight. There are many different doses available such as:

  • tablets: 200 mg, 400 mg, 600 mg
  • chewable tablet: 100 mg
  • capsules: 100 mg, 200 mg
  • liquid: 100 mg in 5 mL, 200 mg in 5 mL.

Possible side effects

Ibuprofen can cause side effects, although not all children will get them. Tell your child's doctor if your child has any of these side effects and they do not go away or they bother your child:

  • stomach ache
  • nausea and vomiting (throwing up)
  • diarrhoea (runny poos) or constipation.

Other side effects below are not common, but they may be a sign of a serious problem. Call your child's doctor right away or take your child to the emergency department if your child has any of these side effects: black, tarry, or bloody poos, skin rash or any other sign of allergic reaction, blood in their pee and wheezing or trouble breathing.

Learn more

The following links have more information about ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen New Zealand Formulary Patient Information

References

  1. Ibuprofen (oral) New Zealand Formulary for Children
Credits: Sandra Ponen (pharmacist). Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 29 Apr 2018