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Ibuprofen is a common treatment for relieving the symptoms of fever and pain.

It is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Ibuprofen brand names include Brufen, Genpril, Ibu-Tab, Cuprofen, Nurofen, Advil, and Motrin, among others.

The packaging of medication at a pharmacy will state whether a product contains ibuprofen.

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Ibuprofen is an NSAID, which is a type of medication with analgesic, fever-reducing, and, in higher doses, anti-inflammatory properties.

The World Health Organization (WHO) includes ibuprofen on its list of essential medicines. The list states the minimum medical needs for a basic healthcare system.

Other types of pain relief medication are steroids and narcotics, or opioids. NSAIDs are safer than both of these, as long-term steroid use can have severe adverse effects, and taking opioids can result in improper use.

Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are well-known NSAIDs, partly because they are available over the counter at pharmacies.

Ibuprofen reduces pain, fever, swelling, and inflammation by blocking the production of cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 and COX-2. The body releases these substances in response to illness and injury.

If a person takes ibuprofen by mouth, they should notice the effects after 20–30 minutes.

People can take ibuprofen by mouth as a syrup or tablet. They can also apply it directly to the skin as a mousse, gel, or spray.

Uses include:

Some medications, such as decongestants, have ibuprofen added to create, for example, a combined cold or flu remedy.

Other products combine ibuprofen with opioids, such as oxycodone. These are for short-term use only, as they can result in misuse.

The most common adverse effects of ibuprofen are gastrointestinal. They include:

Among other likely side effects are:

If a person feels dizzy after taking ibuprofen, they should not drive or operate machinery.

Who should not use it?

Ibuprofen is not suitable for people who have previously had an allergic reaction to aspirin or other NSAIDs or who have just had or are going to have heart surgery.

It may also not be appropriate for those who:

People who are already using any type of medication should ask a healthcare professional for advice before taking ibuprofen.

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strengthened its warning about the increased risk of heart attack or stroke when using ibuprofen.

Side effects can arise within the first weeks of using this drug. The risk may be greater with a higher dose or long-term use or if a person has a history of heart disease.

The FDA calls on people to be aware of this possible problem and to seek immediate medical attention if they experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, sudden weakness in one part or side of the body, or sudden slurred speech.

A person should consult a doctor or qualified pharmacist if they are unsure about whether to use ibuprofen.

When to stop using it

People should stop using ibuprofen and contact a doctor if they experience:

  • faintness or blood in vomit or stool
  • pain that gets worse or lasts longer than 10 days
  • a fever that worsens or lasts longer than 3 days
  • swelling or change in skin color in the area of pain
  • any new symptoms

Allergic reactions

Some people may have an allergy to the ingredients of ibuprofen.

Allergic symptoms include:

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should stop using the drug.

In severe cases, anaphylactic shock may occur, and a person will have difficulty breathing. This is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

Pregnancy and nursing

People should not use ibuprofen at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later, as it could lead to low levels of amniotic fluid.

A person should seek guidance from a healthcare professional before using any medication during pregnancy or when nursing.

Is ibuprofen addictive?

Experts do not generally consider ibuprofen to be a medication that will lead to substance use disorder, although at least one case study suggests this is possible.

The body does not build up a tolerance to it, so a person will not need larger doses for the same effect. Also, there are no withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using it.

Some drugs contain both ibuprofen and opioids, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. Overuse of these medications can lead to substance use disorder.

Sometimes, one medication can interfere with the effects of another. Specialists refer to this as drug interaction.

Drugs that may interact with ibuprofen include:

This may not be an exhaustive list of drugs that interact with ibuprofen. Anyone who is considering using ibuprofen should ask a pharmacist or doctor whether it is safe to do so with their existing medication.

Ibuprofen is widely available in tablet and syrup forms. Doctors may also give it intravenously to manage pain after surgery.

The dosage will depend on the reason for taking ibuprofen and a person’s age. It is essential to take the correct dosage to minimize the risk of side effects.

It is best to take it with food or a drink of milk to reduce the risk of an upset stomach.

For mild to moderate pain, a person can take 400 milligrams (mg) every 4–6 hours. The maximum dose in 1 day is 3,200 mg.

For other purposes, a doctor will recommend the dosage. They will also monitor the person for adverse effects and adjust the dose as necessary.

Ibuprofen and children

Children can take pediatric ibuprofen to relieve pain and fever.

Doses for children are lower than those for adults. Research suggests that dose levels be based on a child’s weight and age.

People should contact a doctor before giving a child ibuprofen if the child is:

  • under 2 years of age or weighs less than 24 pounds
  • taking any other medication
  • receiving treatment for a serious health condition

People should consult the instructions on the packaging or check with a pharmacist or healthcare professional before giving ibuprofen or other medication to children.

Ibuprofen is available for purchase online.

Ibuprofen is an NSAID that is available at pharmacies without a prescription. A person can use it when treating pain and fever.

Ibuprofen carries a warning about serious side effects. A person should always follow the doctor’s instructions and read the information on the packaging carefully before using this or any other medication.