Ibuprofen for children

Key points about ibuprofen for children

  • Ibuprofen is used to treat fever, pain and swelling (or inflammation).
  • Ibuprofen belongs to a group of medicines known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.
Woman takes temperature of unwell child resting on couch
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Giving ibuprofen to babies and children/tamariki – important safety tips 

  • Babies younger than 3 months old must see the doctor if they're unwell.
  • Ibuprofen comes in different strengths. The strength and dose for your child depends on their age (and sometimes weight), so always read the instructions carefully and ask your pharmacist if you're not sure how much to given them.
  • Do not give ibuprofen for chickenpox unless it has been recommended by a doctor. It can cause a serious skin reaction.  

Note: the information on this page is for ibuprofen in children. For information about ibuprofen in adults, see ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen belongs to a group of medicines known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen is used to treat pain from swelling and iinjury. Ibuprofen should start to work within 20 to 30 minutes after taking it. Ibuprofen is also used to treat fever (see below).

  • Use ibuprofen only if necessary to reduce fever or pain.
  • If it’s not working, or if you need to use it for more than 2 days, your child needs to see a doctor. 
  • For long-term pain (eg, arthritis) your child may need to take ibuprofen regularly.

Does my child need ibuprofen for fever?

  • Fever (temperature over 38°C) is a normal response to infection and isn't harmful, so you don't need to give medicine for fever alone.
  • If your child has a fever AND is miserable, it's better to try giving them paracetamol first.
  • You don't need to give babies and children medicine before or after vaccination. This may reduce the effectiveness of childhood vaccinations.

Read more about fever in children.

Who may not be able to take ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen isn't suitable for some children. To make sure it's safe for your child, check with a pharmacist or doctor before giving ibuprofen, especially if your tamariki/child:

  • has had an allergic reaction to ibuprofen or any other medicine
  • has asthma
  • has had stomach, heart, liver or kidney problems
  • has a health problem with an increased risk of bleeding
  • has an inflammatory bowel disease, eg, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • has any signs of dehydration.

Babies younger than 3 months old must see the doctor first.

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

It's OK to give paracetamol and ibuprofen, but be very careful not to give too much of either medicine. 

Write down when you give each dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen so you don't give your child too much.

Read more about giving paracetamol safely to children.  

Ibuprofen comes as liquid, chewable capsules, tablets and capsules. These come in different strengths and you can get some from a pharmacy without a prescription. 

  • Liquid: 100 mg in 5 mL and 200 mg in 5 mL.
  • Chewable capsules: 100 mg.
  • Capsules: 200 mg.
  • Tablets: 200 mg and 400 mg.

Always check the dose is safe for your child's age and weight. 

To check the strength of the liquid, always read the label and do NOT rely on the colour, smell, or flavour. If you don't know what dose to give, check with your doctor or pharmacist. For example, the picture below shows Nurofen® liquid has 2 different strengths that are both orange flavoured.

Three different liquid Nurofen products

Image credit: Heathify He Puna Waiora

Also, make sure you're not giving 2 medicines that both have ibuprofen in them.
Examples of medicines that have ibuprofen in them include:
  • Fenpaed®
  • Nurofen For Children®
  • Advil®
  • Nurofen®.

If you are giving ibuprofen to your child and you're not sure how much to give them, always check with your pharmacist. 

You can also use the Ibuprofen Dose Calculator as a guide. Weigh your child and use the calculator to work out their correct dose.

  • Don't use the same dose for other children unless they are the same age and weight.
  • When measuring the dose of liquid ibuprofen, use a medicine syringe or medicine spoon. You can get these from your pharmacy. Don't use a kitchen spoon as it won't give you the right amount. Read more tips on how to give medicines to babies and children.

If your child needs it, you can give ibuprofen 3 or 4 times a day. Your pharmacist or doctor will tell you how often to give it. It's important to space the doses evenly through the day.

  • 3 times a day: Wait at least 6 hours before giving the next dose. It should be given once in the morning, once in the early afternoon and once in the evening, for example 8 am, 2 pm and 8 pm.
  • 4 times a day: Wait at least 4 hours before giving the next dose. It should be given first thing in the morning, at about midday, late in the afternoon and at bedtime, for example, 8 am, midday, 4 pm and 8 pm.

Ibuprofen can cause side effects, although not all children will get them. Tell your child's healthcare provider if your child has any of these side effects and they don't go away or they bother your child:

  • Stomach ache.
  • Nausea and vomiting (throwing up).
  • Diarrhoea (runny poos/hamuti) or constipation.

Other side effects are not common, but they may be a sign of a serious problem. Call your child's healthcare provider right away or take your child to the emergency department if your child has any of these side effects:

  • black, tarry, or bloody poos
  • skin rash or any other sign of allergic reaction
  • blood in their pee
  • wheezing or trouble breathing.

Read more about medicines and side effects and reporting a reaction that you think might be a side effect.

The following links have more information about ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen(external link) New Zealand Formulary Patient Informati


5 questions to ask about your medications(external link) Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2019 English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)


Ibuprofen paediatric dose calculator


  1. Ibuprofen (oral)(external link) New Zealand Formulary for Children

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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