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What Is Ibuprofen Toxicity?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ibuprofen toxicity occurs when the body is unable to metabolize ibuprofen that has been consumed. Typically, ibuprofen toxicity is classified as minor toxicity, moderate toxicity, or major toxicity. When a patient has minor toxicity, symptoms include drowsiness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fast heart rate, low blood pressure, and skin irritation. Moderate ibuprofen toxicity may produce fever and seizures, while major toxicity may cause prolonged seizure activity, respiratory arrest, respiratory or cardiac arrest, and shock.

Taking doses of ibuprofen recommended by the manufacturer or health care provider are typically safe for most people. Problems tend to develop when ibuprofen is taken in higher-than-recommended doses or used for a long time. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be toxic to the kidneys, and in those who have renal insufficiency or other kidney conditions, taking ibuprofen should only be considered after it has been declared safe by the patient's health care provider.

Arthritis and other inflammatory conditions usually respond well when treated with ibuprofen. Not only does ibuprofen provide exceptional pain relief, it also decreases the swelling that is associated with arthritis as well. For those people who are at risk for ibuprofen toxicity, other methods of pain relief are available, including over-the-counter acetaminophen products. Ibuprofen is also effective in relieving the pain of sprains, muscle aches, headaches and toothaches. In addition, ibuprofen is also an effective fever reducer.

Even when toxic doses of ibuprofen are not consumed, serious side effects can occur, such as gastrointestinal bleeding. Ibuprofen toxicity may be more common in those who are taking other over-the-counter or prescription medications. Ibuprofen should not be taken with aspirin or other anticoagulants unless suggested by the health care provider. Although common in adults, ibuprofen toxicity can occur in children, and symptoms are similar to those of the adult. Parents should buy medicine in child-safety packages and keep medications out of the reach of children.

Sometimes, ibuprofen can cause fluid retention, characterized by swollen feet and ankles, facial puffiness, and swollen fingers. When this occurs, the health care provider should be called, because abnormal swelling may be a sign of kidney failure and ibuprofen toxicity. If symptoms of ibuprofen toxicity occur, emergency medical attention should be sought and the patient transported to the nearest hospital. Treatment may include gastric lavage, or pumping out the stomach of its contents, and the administration of intravenous fluids and medications.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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