- Ibuprofen is a type of anti-inflammatory pain-relief medicine.
- It belongs to a group of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.
- Ibuprofen can be used for the short-term relief of fever, mild to moderate pain and inflammation (redness, swelling and soreness).
- Ibuprofen is available with or without a prescription in a variety of formulations (for example, liquid, tablets and capsules).
- Ibuprofen isn’t suitable for everyone, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking it.
LOOKING FOR A MEDICINE? — See this list of medicines that contain ibuprofen to find out more about a specific medication.
What is ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is a type of anti-inflammatory pain-relief medicine that treats fever and mild to moderate pain caused by inflammation. It belongs to a group of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.
How does ibuprofen work?
Ibuprofen works on one of the body’s chemical pathways for pain. It reduces your body’s ability to make prostaglandins — these are the natural chemicals that trigger pain, inflammation and fever.
With fewer prostaglandins in your body, pain and inflammation are reduced, and your fever goes down.
What is ibuprofen used for?
Ibuprofen can be used for the short-term relief of fever, mild to moderate pain and inflammation (redness, swelling and soreness).
Ibuprofen might also reduce some of the symptoms of:
- headaches (including migraines or tension headache)
- sinus pain
- toothache and pain after dental procedures
- backache and muscular aches and pains
- period pain
- sore throat
Ibuprofen provides only temporary relief — it won't cure your condition.
Read more on pain medicines for your baby or child.
What forms of ibuprofen are available?
Ibuprofen is available in different:
- forms (for example, tablets, capsules and liquids)
- pack sizes
Some products combine ibuprofen with other medicines. If you are taking more than one pain reliever, make sure you don’t ‘double-up’ and accidentally take two medicines that contain ibuprofen.
You can buy ibuprofen in various ways — with a prescription, or without a prescription from pharmacies, convenience stores, service stations and supermarkets.
Babies and children need lower doses of ibuprofen than adults. Ask your pharmacist before buying ibuprofen for your child — there are formulations that are specially designed for children of different ages.
Read more on getting the most out of your pharmacist.
What are the possible side effects of ibuprofen?
Common side effects of ibuprofen include:
- upset stomach e.g. nausea, diarrhoea and indigestion
- high blood pressure
- fluid retention
Serious side effects of ibuprofen that need immediate medical attention include:
- asthma, wheezing and shortness of breath
- swelling of the face, lips or tongue, which may cause difficulty breathing or swallowing
- dark vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- black stools that can indicate bleeding
This is not a full list of side effects. For more information, talk to your doctor or pharmacist or check the consumer medicine information leaflet in your medicine packaging.
If you’re experiencing a serious or life-threatening side effect, immediately call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
The dose of ibuprofen will be printed on the package. Do not take more than the maximal daily dose.
When should I speak to my doctor?
There can be extra risks if you take ibuprofen when you are over 65, have gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD or 'reflux') or a stomach ulcer,so ask your doctor about ibuprofen before taking it. Ibuprofen, like other NSAIDs, can also make heart, liver or kidney disease worse.
Talk to your doctor before taking ibuprofen if you have asthma or are already taking aspirin to prevent heart disease.
Also, speak to your doctor if you:
- experience side effects that trouble you
- have signs of an allergic reaction
- have a health condition or are taking medicine that may affect how your body reacts to ibuprofen
- find that ibuprofen isn’t relieving your pain or fever — check with your doctor before using ibuprofen for longer than a week or so.
- are or become pregnant or start breastfeeding
See the CMI for full details about when to speak with your doctor before or after you have started taking ibuprofen.
ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.
Are there alternatives to ibuprofen?
If you’re treating fever or mild to moderate pain, ask your pharmacist if you can use paracetamol in place of ibuprofen.
For pain or inflammation-related swelling, ask your doctor or pharmacist for another option if ibuprofen is not suitable for you. Your health professional may suggest you try:
- another medicine from the NSAID family
- a medicine that combines codeine with paracetamol or ibuprofen in the same tablet
If your pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe you a stronger pain reliever.
Resources and support
Asking about your treatment or medicine is important to help you understand your options. Read our guide to important questions to ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking a medicine.
You can also visit healthdirect's list of medicines that contain ibuprofen to read the CMI for the brand of ibuprofen prescribed.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
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Last reviewed: April 2022