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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory painkiller. It comes in many different forms, including tablets, liquigels, chewables, and syrup. It can start to work within 20 - 30 minutes. It is important that it is taken with food, as the medication alone can cause stomach irritation. It is suitable for ages 6 months onward, which means it is a great option for children.

Doctor’s advice

Who is it for?

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

How does it work?

Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal 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, NSAIDs 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 it 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 medication, 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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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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