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Children Fever: Paracetamol vs Ibuprofen

I had to pick up one of my boys rather early from pre-school today. He had sore throat and fever.

Every parent knows the routine: the fussy baby, the listless toddler, the cranky pre-schooler, the high thermometer reading, and then comes the question – what do I do now?

The two most common fever remedies for children are paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen) and ibuprofen. I have to admit I’ve tried both for my kids. According to both products’ labels, they can only be given to the child with a time interval of 8 hours. From my experience, however, the fever comes back long before the 8 hours is up. What do we do then? Do we wait or do we risk giving them a second dose too early? I’ve heard from other moms that they tended to combine the two by giving alternating doses, as recommended by their GPs or paediatrician. I wasn’t really sure about the wisdom of this treatment. It is even against the guidelines of some health authorities. Then I read about this study in the British Medical Journal comparing the two drugs. The study was based on data from 156 children aged between 6 months and 6 years.

Here are the results:

  • Ibuprofen on its own is the most effective of the two in lowering the temperature within the first 4 hours
  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen work differently when addressing the fever.
  • The two drugs actually complement each other; children given both drugs spent about 4.4 hours less with fever compared to children given paracetamol and 2.5 hours less with fever when given ibuprofen.
  • The drugs, however, shouldn’t be given simultaneously but rather alternately.

Please take note that this is not meant to be a medical advice. I am simply sharing the results of a scientific study. If in doubt, your doctor should be the person to go to for advice.


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