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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 3 minutes read

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory painkiller. It comes in many different forms, including tablets, capsules, syrup and rub-on gel. It can start to work within 20 - 30 minutes when taken by mouth, and can take up to a couple of days if using creams or rubs. It is important that it is taken with food as the medication alone can cause stomach irritation. It is suitable for ages 3 months onward, which means it is a great option for children.

Doctor’s advice

Who is it for?

Ibuprofen is most suitable for people who have tried paracetamol and are still in some pain. It is a useful tool for inflammatory conditions, such as sprains, strains and backache and can be taken together with paracetamol safely. Ibuprofen is also effective for period pain and toothache, due to its anti-inflammatory effects.

How does it work?

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) from the same family as aspirin and naproxen. Because of this, make sure you aren’t taking ibuprofen alongside other anti-inflammatories, as this can upset your stomach.

Ibuprofen’s anti-inflammatory effect works by blocking the body’s production of substances called "prostaglandins", which are released in response to illness or injury. Prostaglandins can cause pain and inflammation to notify the person they are unwell. By stopping prostaglandin production, they can stop the pain, inflammation and even fever.

Ibuprofen also has a minor antiplatelet effect, which means it stops the blood from clotting. Seek the advice of a pharmacist or doctor if you are on any medications that may affect bleeding.

Should anyone avoid taking ibuprofen?

Like all medications, don’t take them if you have previously had an allergic reaction to the medication, if you have severe kidney or liver problems, or if you have other medications or medical conditions where you would normally discuss with your doctor or pharmacist before starting something new.

If you are asthmatic and haven’t had anti-inflammatories before, they can sometimes cause an acute asthma attack.

Do not take ibuprofen if you are trying to get pregnant or are already pregnant, as there is not enough information about safety during pregnancy.

If you have a known stomach ulcer, or inflammatory bowel disease, you should avoid taking ibuprofen unless recommended by your doctor.

Are there any side-effects?

As with any medications, some people are bound to get some unwanted side effects. Some of the common ones include indigestion and heartburn as ibuprofen can irritate the lining of the stomach especially when taken for more than a few days. If you are taking ibuprofen regularly, or getting side effects, then you should stop and speak to your doctor about stomach protection to prevent stomach ulcers.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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