When your child is in pain, you want it to stop as soon as possible. But knowing which pain medication to choose for a fever, headache or earache can be confusing. You're probably already familiar with over-the-counter pediatric pain medication, but you may not know how to choose between ibuprofen vs. acetaminophen. Here are some tips to help you know which pain relief treatment is right for your child.
Skip the aspirin.
Don't be fooled; baby aspirin isn't appropriate for pain relief in children under 16. Because aspirin can cause a rare but serious condition called Reye's syndrome, it's best to save aspirin for grown-up aches and pains.
Let the immune system do its job.
Just because your child has a slight fever doesn't mean you need to give her a fever reducer. According to Dr. Lisa Griss with Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, "germs don't thrive at higher body temperatures, so a mild fever may indicate that your child's immune system is fighting off a minor infection. If your child appears happy and playful, go ahead and skip the children's pain reliever."
Pay special attention to infants and sick kids.
For infants under six months, pain medication can cause side effects like gastritis and stomach pains, so avoid giving infants ibuprofen. Also, take special care using a pain reliever with children who are dehydrated or vomiting. If symptoms persist, call your doctor or take your child to the nearest ER.
Proceed with caution when using acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen can be used to treat mild to moderate pain and fever in infants and young children, but always consult with your pediatrician first. Acetaminophen is not an anti-inflammatory and can't treat infections or sports injuries. But it does come in a suppository form, making it a great option for children who are vomiting or unwilling to take oral medication. When using acetaminophen for children's health, always watch the dose and consult your doctor if symptoms last more than five consecutive days.
Use the right dose.
"Always be careful to follow the dosing instructions on the label for over-the-counter medications, especially for pediatrics," said Dr. Griss. "If your pediatrician prescribes a different dose to treat your child's symptoms, take the dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen suggested by your doctor." You can find a medication-dosing chart on the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children website.
Write down everything.
It's always a good idea to write down what pain relief treatment you used, how much and at what time. This is especially true if you're alternating medications for pediatric pain relief, or multiple caregivers are responsible for dispensing medications.
Visit our Parenting Resources page for other useful children's health tips.