Ibuprofen is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It’s typically taken to help ease symptoms like pain, inflammation, and fever.
Ibuprofen is sold under the brand names Advil, Motrin, and Midol, among others.
This drug works by inhibiting an enzyme that helps produce compounds called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are associated with pain and inflammation in the body.
But how long do the effects of ibuprofen take to work? And what dosage is both safe and effective?
Common conditions that ibuprofen is used for include:
For acute conditions, like a headache, ibuprofen will likely only be taken once or twice over the short term.
For chronic conditions, like back pain or arthritis, ibuprofen may need to be taken regularly for weeks or months at a time.
Generally it takes about 30 minutes for you to begin feeling the effects of ibuprofen. However, this timeframe can vary from one person to the next, and for different reasons.
When ibuprofen begins to work, you’ll typically start to notice a decrease in pain or fever. The anti-inflammatory effects of ibuprofen usually take longer — sometimes a week or more.
Ibuprofen levels in your bloodstream are estimated to be at their maximum level after
However, ibuprofen is quickly cleared from your body. This is one of the reasons why — depending on the condition that’s being treated — you may need to take a dose every few hours.
The timing of ibuprofen levels appear to be similar in children. Younger children may clear ibuprofen from their system faster than adults.
Some people may experience symptom relief quickly while others find that it takes longer. This is because various factors can impact how long a drug takes to work.
Some factors that may affect how quickly ibuprofen takes to work for you include:
- the dosage that’s taken
- your weight
- your age
- your overall health
- if you have food in your stomach
- whether or not other drugs are taken at the same time
Over-the-counter (OTC) ibuprofen is typically available in 200-milligram (mg) pills.
It’s best to use the minimum dosage necessary to relieve your symptoms. Typically, one ibuprofen pill is taken by mouth every 4 to 6 hours. If one pill doesn’t work to ease symptoms, a second pill can be taken.
Don’t take more than 1,200 mg of ibuprofen in one day. For OTC ibuprofen, this equates to a maximum of 6 pills per day.
Additionally, avoid taking ibuprofen for longer than 10 days, unless directed to do so by your doctor.
Dosage for children
Ibuprofen can be given to children as a liquid solution, chewable tablet, or pill. Which form is recommended will depend on the child’s age.
The dosage of ibuprofen in children under age 12 is based on the child’s body weight.
If your child needs to take ibuprofen, ask their pediatrician for the recommended dosage and how often it needs to be taken.
While ibuprofen is generally safe, it may not be suitable for everyone. You’ll want to avoid taking ibuprofen if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to ibuprofen, aspirin, or another type of NSAID in the past
- have a peptic ulcer, or had one in the past
- are about to have or have recently had a surgical procedure
- are pregnant
It may also interact with other medications you’re taking. Because of this, it’s important to talk to your doctor before using ibuprofen if you:
- are 60 or older
- frequently experience symptoms like:
- stomach pain
- stomach upset
- have a history of:
- have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood-thinning drugs
- use other types of medications, particularly:
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure if ibuprofen is safe for you.
As with most medications, ibuprofen can have some side effects, especially if it’s taken at a higher dosage, or over a longer period of time.
The most common side effects include:
Less common side effects include:
Taking too much ibuprofen can be dangerous. Some signs that you’ve taken too much ibuprofen include:
- black stool
- vomit that contains blood
- shallow breathing or difficulty breathing
- hypotension (low blood pressure)
- rapid heartbeat
- a severe headache
- urinary issues, such as bloody urine or urinating very little
If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Let the medical personnel know that you’ve been taking ibuprofen, ideally bringing the product packaging along with you.
Ibuprofen isn’t the only type of NSAID available. There are other options you can try if you’re unsure about taking ibuprofen.
Some NSAIDs are only available with a prescription. A few examples of these include:
- celecoxib (Celebrex)
- diclofenac (Voltaren)
- feneoprofen (Nalfon)
- indomethacin (Indocin)
- ketorolac (Toradol)
If you’re not sure which NSAID is right for you, talk to your doctor. Based on your medical history and current medications, your doctor can recommend an NSAID that’s safe and appropriate for you to take.
Ibuprofen can be taken to help ease symptoms like pain, inflammation, and fever.
While the amount of time it takes for ibuprofen to work can vary, it usually takes about half an hour to start feeling symptom relief.
Adults can take a dose of OTC ibuprofen every 4 to 6 hours. When taking ibuprofen, be sure not to exceed the maximum daily dosage or to take it for more than 10 days. Dosing for children depends on body weight.
Ibuprofen may not be recommended if you have certain health conditions or are taking specific medications. If you have questions or concerns about taking ibuprofen, speak with your doctor.