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What is the Difference Between Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen?

Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, Board Certified Pediatrician
January 3, 2019 . 2 min read

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are both used to treat fever and/or pain in infants and children.

Acetaminophen is most commonly known as Tylenol, but there are several brands on the market. It’s distributed in two different mechanisms. The one for infants comes with a syringe for easy dosing, whereas the one for children tends to come with a little cup that children can drink from.

The instructions for use are on the side of the box, but here’s another difference: the one for infants says babies under 24 pounds or under 2 years old should check with your doctor for the dose. Whereas the one for over 2 years has instructions for how much to give from the time your child weighs 24 pounds all the way up to 95 pounds.

It’s important when you go to a sick visit or a well visit with your infant to ask your doctor just how much Tylenol you would give them if you needed it.

Ibuprofen is most commonly known as Advil or Motrin. But, like acetaminophen, there are many store brands that contain the same medication. Unlike acetaminophen, you should not give a baby ibuprofen unless he or she is at least six months of age. Ibuprofen is also used to treat both fever and pain.

Like acetaminophen, ibuprofen comes in an infant’s formulation and a children’s formulation. The dose by age and weight is available on both products. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are adequate for fever and pain relief. Tylenol, or acetaminophen, can be given every four hours with a maximum of five times per day. Ibuprofen is dosed every six hours, so some parents prefer it for the bedtime fever reducer. Be sure to know the risks of over-the-counter medication use and overdose.

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