Ibuprofen

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Ibuprofen is a painkiller. It’s available over the counter without a prescription.

Ibuprofen is part of a group of painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Ibuprofen is not suitable for everyone. Check the patient information leaflet or ask your healthcare professional if it’s right for you.

What is ibuprofen used for?

Ibuprofen can be used to:

Types of ibuprofen

You can buy most types of ibuprofen from supermarkets or pharmacies. Some types are only available on prescription.

Ibuprofen is available as:

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • liquids
  • gels or creams
  • sprays

In some products, ibuprofen is combined with other ingredients. For example, it’s sometimes combined with medicine for a blocked nose (a decongestant). It’s then sold as a cold and flu remedy.

How to take ibuprofen

Follow the guidance on the label or leaflet when taking ibuprofen. You can also speak to a healthcare professional about your dose.

How much you can take depends on your age, the type of ibuprofen you’re taking, and how strong it is.

Important

Do not give ibuprofen for chickenpox unless it has been recommended by a doctor. It can cause a serious skin reaction.

The painkilling effect of ibuprofen begins soon after a dose is taken.

Adults can take paracetamol at the same time as ibuprofen, if necessary. This isn’t recommended for children.

Don’t take more than the recommended dose of ibuprofen.

Possible side effects

You should check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for a full list of side effects.

Common side effects

Common side effects of ibuprofen include:

  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • indigestion
  • abdominal pain

Less common side effects

Less common side effects of ibuprofen include:

  • headache or dizziness
  • bloating
  • raised blood pressure
  • inflammation of the stomach (gastritis)
  • a stomach ulcer
  • allergic reactions – such as a rash
  • worsening of asthma symptoms
  • kidney failure
  • black poo and blood in your vomit – this can indicate bleeding in your stomach

Speak to your pharmacist or GP practice if:

Someone has taken ibuprofen and:

  • they have a high temperature that doesn’t get better
  • they continue to experience pain
  • their symptoms get worse
  • their symptoms last more than 3 days
  • they feel unwell

Phone 111 if your pharmacy or GP practice is closed.

Reporting side effects

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any medicine you’re taking. It’s run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Further information on the Yellow Card Scheme

Warnings and precautions

You should not take ibuprofen if you have:

  • had a strong reaction (hypersensitivity) to aspirin or other NSAIDs in the past
  • a stomach ulcer, or have had one in the past
  • severe heart failure
  • severe liver disease
  • been taking low-dose aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease

You should use ibuprofen with caution if you’re aged 65 or over, breastfeeding, or have:

If you have any questions about using ibuprofen, you should speak to a pharmacist. You can also talk to your GP practice or phone 111.

Children

Ibuprofen may be given to children aged 3 months or over who weigh at least 5kg (11lbs). It can be used to relieve:

  • pain
  • inflammation
  • fever

In certain cases, a healthcare professional may recommend ibuprofen for younger children. For example, it may be to control a fever after a vaccination if paracetamol is unsuitable.

Other medicines and ibuprofen

Ibuprofen can react unpredictably with certain medicines. This can affect how well either medicine works and increase the risk of side effects.

As ibuprofen is a type of NSAID, you shouldn’t take more than one of these at a time or you’ll have an increased risk of side effects.

NSAIDs can also interact with many other medicines, including:

Check the leaflet that comes with your medicine to see if it can be taken with ibuprofen. Ask your GP practice or local pharmacist if you’re not sure.

Pregnancy

Pregnant women shouldn’t take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends it.

It’s best to tell your GP practice, pharmacist or health visitor about any medicines you’re taking.

Paracetamol is recommended as an alternative to:

  • ease short-term pain
  • reduce a high temperature

High doses of ibuprofen

Taking high doses of ibuprofen over long periods of time can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack.

Overdose

Taking too much ibuprofen can be very dangerous. This is known as an overdose.

Some people feel sick, vomit, have abdominal pain or ringing in their ears (tinnitus) after taking too much ibuprofen. But often there are no symptoms at first.

Go to A&E if:

  • you or someone else has taken more than the recommended maximum dose of ibuprofen, even if you’re feeling well

It can be helpful to take any remaining medicine and the box or leaflet with you to A&E if you can.

Last updated:
01 July 2024