Paracetamol vs Ibuprofen: What’s the difference

When can Paracetamol or Ibuprofen be given?

Paracetamol (Panadol ®, Calpol®, Tylenol®) and Ibuprofen (Neurofen®, Advil®) are the 2 most common medications given for fever and pain. In children, the dose of the medication is calculated according to the weight of the child. Paracetamol is effective for 6 hours, and Ibuprofen for 8 hours, hence Paracetamol is given 4 times a day, and Ibuprofen 3 times a day. At the end of the time block, you might notice the fever or pain returning. Ibuprofen should not be used in someone or used in caution in a person with asthma or history of stomach ulcers.

What should you give a child with a fever?

Paracetamol should be the first choice of medication for a child with a fever. Ibuprofen can be added on if the fever is above 39.5C. In this case, a dose of medication should be given every 3-4 hours, strictly alternating between Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. This should adequately keep the temperature down and keep within the safe limit of each medication.

If the child is under 12 months old with a very high temperature (>39.5C), the child should be seen by a doctor. For older children, a prolonged high temperature for over 48 hours should also be an indication to be seen. If a child’s temperature does not respond to the medication at all, and remain lethargic or drowsy, then they should also be seen soon. If a child has a high temperature with no commonly associated symptoms of a cold, runny nose or sore throat, they should also be seen by a doctor, as the diagnosis of dengue needs to be considered. In the case of dengue, Ibuprofen should not be used.

Please note:

It is important to stress that medications bought in another country might be of a different strength/concentration, so it is important to check very carefully the strength and not assume that the dose is always the same.

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