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How to Safely Give Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen (eye-byoo-PRO-fen) is an over-the-counter medicine taken to relieve aches and pain and reduce fever. It's a safe drug when used correctly. But too high a dose can make a child very sick. Giving too much can lead to stomach problems, confusion, and possible kidney problems. So it's important to know how to properly give ibuprofen.

If you have any questions about giving ibuprofen to your child, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Never give this or any other kind of medicine to a child younger than 2 years old without getting a doctor's OK first.

What Is Ibuprofen Also Called?

Ibuprofen is the generic name for this drug. The most common brand names for ibuprofen in the United States are Advil® and Motrin®.

What Types of Ibuprofen Are Available?

For kids, this medicine is available in oral suspensions (liquid form), chewables, and tablets. In some countries, rectal suppositories can be purchased over the counter under the name Nurofen®.

Advil® makes Infants Advil® Drops and Children's Advil® Suspension, as well as Jr. Strength Advil® Chewables and Jr. Strength Advil® Tablets. Motrin® makes Motrin® Infants' Drops and Children's Motrin® Oral Suspension. Other brands of ibuprofen are available in similar forms.

How to Give Ibuprofen

When giving ibuprofen, refer to the following dosage charts for the correct dosage. 

Other things to know:

  • Check the expiration date to make sure it's not expired. If it is, throw away the medicine and purchase a new product. For proper disposal, remove the medicine from its original container and place it in an undesirable substance that children or animals wouldn't be tempted to eat, like coffee grounds or kitty litter. Then, put it in a sealable bag inside a garbage can.
  • Make sure your child is not taking other medicines with ibuprofen in them. Ibuprofen is a very common ingredient in cough, cold, and allergy medicines. If your child is taking one, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before giving your child more ibuprofen. Overdosing on ibuprofen can damage the stomach or intestines.
  • Check the concentration and recommended dosage. Give your child a dose from the dropper, syringe, or cup that came with the product. This is especially important when giving the infant concentrated drops, which are more potent than the children's suspension concentration. This will help ensure that your child gets the right amount of milliliters, or ml (also called cc, or cubic centimeters), and doesn't overdose. Never use a measuring spoon from the kitchen or a cup or dropper from a different product. Chewables or tablets are not recommended for children younger than 6 years old due to the risk of choking.
  • When giving for a fever, consider the child's temperature and age. If you have an infant 3 months or younger with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, call your doctor or go to the emergency department immediately. If your child is between 3 months and 3 years old and has a fever of 102.2°F (39°C) or higher, call your doctor to find out if he or she needs to see your child.
  • If your child spits up a dose of ibuprofen without swallowing it, let your child calm down and then give the same dose again. If the ibuprofen is swallowed and then vomited up later, don't give your child another dose for at least 6 hours unless the dose was in tablet form and you can see that your child vomited up the whole tablet.
  • Give every 6 to 8 hours as needed, but never give your child more than four doses in 24 hours.
  • If your child doesn't like the flavor, you can try a product with a different flavoring.
  • If your child is sensitive to dyes, use a dye-free type of ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen Dosages By Weight

Doctors recommend using a child's weight instead of age when figuring out how much medicine to give. Before giving your child a dose, check the label to make sure the recommended dosage and concentration agree with the numbers below.

This table is based on doctors' and the manufacturers' recommendations. Itd is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. If your child is 2 years old or younger, get the OK from your health care professional before giving the medicine. And always call if you have any questions or concerns about giving medicine.

Age/Weight    Ibuprofen Infant Drops
   (50 mg/1.25 ml)
Under 6 months old    Ask your doctor
12-17 lbs.
(6-11 months)
   1.25 ml
18-23 lbs.
(12-23 months)
   1.875 ml

Weight Ibuprofen Children's Liquid
(100 mg/5 ml) 
12-17 lbs.
(6-11 months)
   Ask your doctor
18-23 lbs.
(12-23 months)
   Ask your doctor
24-35 lbs.
(2-3 years)
   1 teaspoon (5 ml)
36-47 lbs.
(4-5 years)
   1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml)
48-59 lbs.
(6-8 years)
   2 teaspoons (10 ml)
60-71 lbs.
(9-10 years)
   2½ teaspoons (12.5 ml)
72-95 lbs.
(11 years)
   3 teaspoons (15 ml)

 

Weight Ibuprofen Jr. Strength Chewables
(100 mg)
24-35 lbs.
(2-3 years)
     Not recommended
36-47 lbs.
(4-5 years)
     Not recommended
48-59 lbs.
(6-8 years)
     2 tablets
60-71 lbs.
(9-10 years)
     2½ tablets
72-95 lbs.
(11 years)
     3 tablets

Date reviewed: October 2018