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Ibuprofen

5-minute read

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 reliever.

Here you will find more information on what ibuprofen is, what it's used for, how it works, its risks and whether there are any other treatment options available in its place.

You can get ibuprofen in various ways — with a prescription, or without a prescription from pharmacies, convenience stores, service stations and supermarkets.

Ibuprofen is a 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.

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 ease some of the symptoms of:

Ibuprofen provides only temporary relief — it won't cure your condition.

How does ibuprofen work?

Ibuprofen works on one of the chemical pathways for pain. It reduces the ability of your body to make prostaglandins — chemicals that promote pain, inflammation and fever.

With fewer prostaglandins in your body, fever eases, and pain and inflammation is reduced.

What forms of ibuprofen are available?

Ibuprofen is available in different:

  • brands
  • forms e.g. tablets, capsules and liquids
  • strengths
  • packaging
  • pack sizes

Some products combine ibuprofen with other medicines.

What are the possible side effects of ibuprofen?

Common side effects of ibuprofen include:

There can be extra risks if you take ibuprofen when you are over 65 - or have an gastro-oesophageal reflux disease ('reflux') or an ulcer, so discuss this with your doctor. Ibuprofen, like all NSAIDs, can also make heart, liver or kidney disease worse. Talk to your doctor before taking ibuprofen if you have asthma, are already taking low-dose aspirin to prevent heart disease, if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

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, if you're experiencing a serious or life-threatening side effect, immediately call triple zero (000).

When should I speak to my doctor?

There can be extra risks if you take ibuprofen when you are over 65 — or have gastro-oesophageal reflux disease ('reflux') or a stomach ulcer, so discuss this with your doctor. 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 medication that may affect how your body reacts to ibuprofen. Ibuprofen, like all 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 low-dose aspirin to prevent heart disease
  • find that ibuprofen isn’t relieving your pain or fever
  • 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.

Are there alternatives to ibuprofen?

For treating fever, an alternative to ibuprofen is paracetamol.

For pain or inflammation-related swelling, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an alternative if ibuprofen is not suitable for you. Your health professional may suggest you try:

  • paracetamol
  • 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.

This page does not give you all the information about ibuprofen. Please read the pack label for more details, and ask your doctor or pharmacist important questions.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2020


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