By Kara Lau, clinical pharmacist at CHOC
Ibuprofen and naproxen are common over-the counter medicines used to treat fever, headache, toothache, muscle pain and inflammation (swelling). Both belong to the class of medicines known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID).
Ibuprofen, also known as Advil or Motrin, is safe to use in children at least six months of age and older. One dose of ibuprofen lasts approximately six to eight hours.
Naproxen, also known as Aleve, is safe to use in children 12 years and older. However, doctors may prescribe naproxen to younger children for inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. A single dose of naproxen lasts up to 12 hours and therefore requires less frequent doses than ibuprofen.
Although NSAIDs are safe to use when taken as directed, overdoses and misuse can lead to serious problems including kidney failure, low blood pressure and bleeding. Data from the Poison Control Center estimates about 50,000 incidents involving ibuprofen each year.
How to use ibuprofen and naproxen safely
Read the product labels carefully
Dosing can be confusing, so read labels carefully and ask for help from your pediatrician or pharmacist in determining the correct dose. Parents should limit the amount of ibuprofen or naproxen taken per dose and limit the amount taken daily.
Double-check what kind of liquid concentration ibuprofen you have at home
Liquid ibuprofen comes in varying strengths for infants and children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that confusion over these types led to overdoses that made infants seriously ill.
Again, read labels to know what you have and how much to give to a child.
Use the dosing device included with the medicine
Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same, and a teaspoon and tablespoon used for cooking won’t measure the same amount as the dosing device. Rely on what’s included with the product to ensure proper dosing.
Check the age restrictions for safe administration
Read the medication packaging to see if your child is old enough to take ibuprofen or naproxen. Consult your child’s doctor before giving them ibuprofen or naproxen if your child does not meet the minimum age requirement.
Look for signs of overdose
Early symptoms of NSAID overdose include vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness and tiredness. If a parent suspects their child has overdosed on an NSAID, call poison control immediately at 800-222-1222.