What is the difference between paracetamol and ibuprofen for treating my child’s pain or fever?
Pain and fever are common in children due to a variety of causes including injury, illness, surgery or teething.1 While medicines are not always needed to relieve pain, it's important to know how to provide your child with safe and effective pain relief if it is ever necessary.
Fever is a rise in body temperature above 38° C, and is a natural response to an infection in the body.2 It can also occur after receiving a vaccination. Medicines are not always needed to relieve your child's fever – most infants and children can tolerate low-grade fever (eg, 38°–38.5° C) without medicine, and often respond to clear fluids such as water, and comfort.3
Ibuprofen and paracetamol are two of the most commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat pain and fever in children. However, ibuprofen and paracetamol differ in how they work, how fast they work, and how long they last in the body, as well as who they can be given to, and their risk of side effects and interactions with other medicines.
Paracetamol is one of the most frequently used OTC medicines for pain relief in Australia.4,5 It can be used to treat mild to moderate pain and fever in children. Paracetamol has only a minimal effect on inflammation (redness, swelling).6 Paracetamol is the active ingredient in a number of OTC products for children, including drops, suspensions, tablets and suppositories.5,7
Ibuprofen is one of the most common non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) used for Australian children.4 Ibuprofen may also be used to treat mild to moderate pain and fever. Unlike paracetamol, ibuprofen can also reduce inflammation. Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in a number of OTC products for children, including suspensions and chewable tablets. It is not currently available in suppository form.7
Clinical studies suggest that both ibuprofen and paracetamol are similarly effective in treating pain in children.5
6. Drugdex system. Greenwood Village Colorado, USA: Thomson Micromedex.