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What's the difference between paracetamol and ibuprofen?

When it comes to treating pain and fever in infants and children, you should only ever use paracetamol or ibuprofen. Both of these medicines are effective in treating pain and fever in children, but they work very differently. Aspirin can be dangerous for children, and should be avoided.

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory that works by limiting your body’s production of a fatty acid called prostaglandins. It can result in stomach irritation, however, if your child is not eating, so it’s worth avoiding if your child’s illness includes loss of appetite.

Paracetamol works on reducing pain and fever too, but it’s not an anti-inflammatory. Doctors and experts think that paracetamol treats pain and fever by working on the central nervous system. Unlike ibuprofen, it’s not a stomach irritant, so it’s safe to give to children who aren’t eating. When you give your child paracetamol, however, it’s important to get the dosage right – that’s because paracetamol in large doses can be toxic to the liver, and can cause more problems than it solves.

Whichever medication you do choose for your child, however, it’s important that you make sure you give your child the right dose for their age and weight. And remember that children’s painkillers come in different forms – from babies drops to chewables for older children.

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