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What is Ibuprofen?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ibuprofen is a drug which is recommended for mild to moderate pain, soreness, swelling, and fever. It is generally available as an Over the Counter (OTC) drug, meaning that anyone can walk into a drugstore and purchase it. This can be risky, as there are dangers to excessive use of this medication, and it is possible to overdose on the drug, potentially causing severe health problems. However, when used safely, the drug can be a very effective and useful pain management tool.

The drug was developed in the 1960s by the Boots Chemical Company, and it is marketed under a number of names. Motrin®, Nurofen®, and Advil® are all forms of ibuprofen. Commonly, the drug is found on the shelf near aspirin, since the two products are used for similar conditions. The drug tends to be easier on the digestive system than aspirin, so people with ulcers and other stomach conditions may prefer ibuprofen for relief of minor aches and pains.

The generic name of the drug is a shortening of its chemical name, iso-butyl-propanoic-phenolic acid. The drug is considered a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication. Unlike a steroidal drug, ibuprofen can be safely used in the long term, as it does not carry as many harmful side effects as steroidal drugs do. When pain and inflammation are not severe, the drug can also be perfectly effective.

Extended or excessive use can carry risks to the heart. It should not be used by people with serious heart conditions before being discussed with a doctor, and most surgeons recommend that it not be used when a patient is about to have heart surgery. Combining aspirin with ibuprofen may also be dangerous; the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) highly recommends discussing its use with a doctor for this reason.

An overdose of ibuprofen can result in severe gastrointestinal distress, characterized by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The drug may also cause fluid retention, dizziness, headaches, nosebleeds, and rashes. By taking low doses of the drug which conform with the recommended doses on the label, these symptoms can generally be avoided. If you find yourself taking the medication for an extended period of time, you should consult a doctor, as you may have a serious condition which requires professional medical attention. Always disclose ibuprofen use when you are asked about recent medications, since it can interact with drugs prescribed by a doctor or used in a hospital.

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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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon926708 — On Jan 20, 2014

I wish there were more specific guidelines for all these meds, since for some reason they are now all said to be too strong. I have been through everything in my cabinet that there are new guidelines for now. All of it is substantially larger dosages than being said to be safe, and this is on the bottle recommendations. What's the deal? One pill is more than the overall guidelines, as the upper limit dosage.

By anon49221 — On Oct 18, 2009

what should be given to your child when he has a high fever? every time my son gets an extremely high temperature i give him children's tylenol. the only problem is that he wakes up with terrible nightmares screaming and talking, but not fully awake. thank you.

By e285 — On Apr 26, 2009

Are symptoms such as bruising just above the wrist commonly related to carpal tunnel wrist problems?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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