What You Need to Know About Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen pain relief tablets
Should you take ibuprofen?. Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Ibuprofen is a popular over the counter pain reliever and fever reducer. It is available for children and adults and can be used for a wide variety of illnesses and conditions. If you have never taken ibuprofen before or you aren't sure if it's right for your problem right now, you'll get the basics on this common drug here. 

Active Ingredient

Ibuprofen 200mg per caplet, regular strength non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug (NSAID)

In the United States, ibuprofen is sold as brand name medications Advil and Motrin, as well as multiple generic and store brands. 

Dosing

Adults – 1 to 2 caplets every 4 to 6 hours as needed for fever or pain. Do not exceed 6 caplets in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor.
Children (under 12 years old) – Ibuprofen can be used in children 6 months old and up. Follow dosing directions on the label based on your child's age and weight or ask his health care provider for specific dosing instructions for your child. 

Uses

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory medicine, meaning it reduces swelling and pain caused by irritation in your body. It is also useful for bringing down fevers. 

It's actually quite a useful medicine if you have an illness like the common cold or the flu. These viruses can cause aches and pains, fevers, sore throat, headache and other discomfort. Taking ibuprofen even if you don't have a fever may bring you some relief from the pain caused by your illness.

Myth or Fact: Can Ibuprofen Cause Weight Gain?

Misconceptions abound about nearly every medicine available. One question about ibuprofen that comes up from time to time is whether or not it can cause weight gain.

Taking ibuprofen doesn't increase body fat and it won't make you eat more. However, it can affect your kidneys if you already have kidney problems or if you take it frequently for long periods of time.

When your kidneys don't function properly, you can retain water, which may appear to be weight gain. Although this is possible, remember that this is rare with ibuprofen use. If you're experiencing this, talk to your doctor to get to the bottom of what is causing it.

Adverse Effects

Ibuprofen is a Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) which could cause stomach bleeding. This risk is higher if you:

  • Are over age 60
  • Have a history of stomach ulcers or bleeding problems
  • Take blood thinners or steroids
  • Take other NSAIDs (aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen or others)
  • Drink 3 or more alcoholic beverages every day while taking this medication
  • Take the medication for longer than directed or take more than the recommended dose

It is also possible to have a severe allergic reaction to ibuprofen. Although rare, these signs may include: hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, shock, rash, blisters or wheezing. If these symptoms occur, discontinue use and seek medical attention right away.

Cautions and Warnings

Do not use Ibuprofen if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a pain reliever or fever reducer.

Do not use right before or after heart surgery.

Talk to your health care provider before using ibuprofen if you are having any type of surgical procedure. 

Ask a Doctor Before Use

  • If you have had problems when taking other pain relievers or fever reducers
  • If you have serious stomach problems or a history of ulcers
  • If you have high blood pressure
  • If you have heart or kidney disease
  • If you are over 60 years old
  • If you have bleeding problems
  • If you are taking diuretics (such as Lasix), blood thinners (such as Coumadin), steroids or other NSAIDs
  • If you have any other chronic or serious medical problems
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding – may cause serious complications during the last three months of pregnancy

Stop use and ask a Doctor if you Have any of the Following

  • Black or bloody stools, vomiting blood or feeling faint – these may be signs of stomach bleeding
  • Pain gets worse or lasts for more than 10 days
  • Fever lasts more than three days
  • Stomach pain gets worse
  • You have redness or swelling in the area that is causing pain
  • Any new symptoms appear

Other Information About Ibuprofen

Some people experience stomach discomfort or irritation when taking ibuprofen. Taking it with food or milk may help. In some cases, taking ibuprofen continuously for long periods of time may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Ibuprofen is a great medication when it's taken properly. It is generally very effective at bringing down fevers and relieving minor aches and pains. 

Sources:

Advil Tablets. Advil. 2006. Wyeth Consumer Healthcare. 

Ibuprofen Tablets, USP 400mg, 600mg and 800mg. https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/archives/fdaDrugInfo.cfm?archiveid=18539.

"Motrin IB." Motrin Family of Products. 2006. McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNeil PPC, Inc. 

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