Ibuprofen is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It blocks prostaglandin production in the body to help reduce pain and fever symptoms. This medication is widely used and recognizable in drugstores through popular brand names, such as Advil and Motrin IB. It is also available in numerous forms, from gel caps and tablets, to chewable and liquid formulas. Despite its wide availability, however, ibuprofen carries the risk for side effects. Learn more about this NSAID, and always talk to a physician before use.
Uses for Ibuprofen
Ibuprofen is used primarily for pain relief. It can be used for minor pain associated with headaches, back aches, toothaches, muscle or joint pain and menstrual cramps. This drug is also used for the relief of cold and flu symptoms—for this reason, you may find the ingredient in combination therapies, such Advil Cold & Sinus. With a doctor’s consent, patients may use ibuprofen for other health conditions.
The anti-inflammatory effects of ibuprofen are also useful in reducing fever. Read all dosing information beforehand, especially when using in children. Call a doctor if fever doesn’t subside within two days, as this may signify an infection.
Risks & Side Effects
Some patients may experience mild side effects, such as nausea, heartburn and constipation. The National Institutes of Health says that taking ibuprofen with food or milk may help to alleviate such effects. Other risks may include:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
Report any side effects to a doctor immediately. Although rare, some patients may experience signs of an allergic reaction, such as itchy skin and breathing difficulties. Such symptoms require emergency medical help.
Other more serious side effects are associated with ibuprofen overdose:
- Fever and severe headache
- Rapid changes in body weight
- Severe sore throat
- Stomach pain or vomiting
- Dark urine
- Black or bloody stools
- Yellowing of eyes of skin (jaundice)
- Chest pain
- Seizures or convulsions
- Changes in heartbeat
These symptoms may be associated with a reaction to the medication or an ibuprofen overdose. If you or a loved one experience such serious effects, call 911 right away. An overdose at the emergency room may be treated with a laxative or activated charcoal. The precise treatment depends on the amount of ibuprofen you take, as well as your weight, age and overall health condition.
While ibuprofen is safe for many patients, NSAIDs come with the possibility for serious risks. According to the National Institutes of Health, people who take ibuprofen are at a greater risk for heart attack or stroke than patients who do not take NSAIDs. Long-term use increases such risks even more. Your doctor might not recommend ibuprofen if you have a history of such medical conditions, and this medication is not recommended before or after heart surgery.
Another warning is associated with the possibility of serious gastrointestinal effects associated with ibuprofen. Some patients may experience stomach bleeding or ulcers. In other cases, the medication may cause holes in the stomach. The National Institutes of Health says that such risks occur more often in cases of overdose and long-term use, as well as in the elderly. Ibuprofen may not be recommended for patients with a history of ulcers, kidney disease, clotting disorders or liver disease.
Side effects and serious complications can occur by mistakenly mixing medications. It is important to know all the ingredients in combination medicines to avoid such risks. If you are unsure, as a doctor or pharmacist.
Patients do not necessarily require the maximum dosage of this medication for pain relief. In fact, the makers of Advil, one of the most popular brand names for ibuprofen, actually recommend you take the smallest effective dose. This is especially important in children and older adults who may be more vulnerable to side effects.
When determining the smallest effective dose for adults, Drugs.com offers a few helpful guidelines depending on your condition:
- Fever: 200 to 400 mg every 4 to 6 hours
- General headache and pain: 200 to 400 mg every 4 to 6 hours
- Osteoarthritis: 400 to 800 mg every 6 to 8 hours
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: 400 to 800 mg every 6 to 8 hours
Children have other dosage requirements. While acetaminophen has long been used in children, ibuprofen is becoming another front-runner for pain relief in pediatric medicine. You may be more familiar with acetaminophen dosing information in children, so it is vital to read the instructions for ibuprofen before use.
Drugs.com outlines the following ibuprofen dosage information for children with fevers:
- 5 mg every 6 to 8 hours if fever is below 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit in children 2 months to 11 years old
- 10 mg every 6 to 8 hours if fever is above 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit in children 2 months to 11 years old
Children ages 6 months to 11 years old may take 10 mg of ibuprofen every 6 to 8 hours for pain relief. However, the National Institutes of Health recommends a maximum of four doses per day—this equates to 40 mg total in 24 hours.
Before taking ibuprofen, it is important to check the planned dosage with a doctor. This is especially the case if you plan on taking the medication on a long-term basis for chronic medical conditions.
When taken as directed, ibuprofen may be a great source of relief for patients suffering from pain. Whether the pain is minor or chronic, this medication has the ability to improve quality of life. Still, given the risks and potential for side effects, you should never start ibuprofen before discussing the facts with your doctor first. The same applies to over-the-counter brands of the drug.