Ibuprofen and naproxen are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). You may know them by their most popular brand names: Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen). These drugs are alike in many ways, so you may even wonder if it really matters which one you choose. Take a look at this comparison to get a better idea of which one might be better for you.
What ibuprofen and naproxen do
Both drugs work by temporarily preventing your body from releasing a substance called prostaglandin. Prostaglandins contribute to inflammation, which may cause pain and fever. By blocking prostaglandins, ibuprofen and naproxen treat minor aches and pains from:
They also temporarily reduce fever.
Ibuprofen vs. naproxen
Although ibuprofen and naproxen are very similar, they aren’t exactly the same. For example, pain relief from ibuprofen doesn’t last as long as pain relief from naproxen. That means you don’t have to take naproxen as often as you would ibuprofen. This difference may make naproxen a better option for treating pain from chronic conditions.
On the other hand, ibuprofen can be used in young children, but naproxen is only for use in children 12 years and older. Certain forms of ibuprofen are made to be easier for younger children to take.
The following table illustrates these as well as other features of these two drugs.
|What forms does it come in?||oral tablet, liquid gel-filled capsule, chewable tablet*, liquid oral drops*, liquid oral suspension*||oral tablet, liquid gel-filled capsule|
|What is the typical dose?||200-400 mg†||220 mg|
|How often do I take it?||every 4-6 hours as needed†||every 8-12 hours|
|What is the maximum dose per day?||1,200 mg†||660 mg|
†Only for people 12 years or older
Since ibuprofen and naproxen are both NSAIDs, they have the same side effects. However, the risk of heart and blood pressure-related side effects is greater with naproxen.
The table below lists examples of the side effects of these drugs.
|More common side effects||Serious side effects|
|indigestion||holes in your gut|
|loss of appetite||heart attack*|
|vomiting||high blood pressure*|
|diarrhea||kidney disease, including kidney failure|
|gas||liver disease, including liver failure|
|life-threatening allergic reactions|
Do not take more than the recommended dosage of each drug and do not take either drug for longer than 10 days. If you do, you increase your risk of heart and blood pressure-related side effects. Smoking cigarettes or having more than three alcoholic drinks per day also increases your risk of side effects.
If you experience any side effects of ibuprofen or naproxen or believe you may have taken too much, contact your doctor right away.
An interaction is an undesired, sometimes harmful effect from taking two or more drugs together. Naproxen and ibuprofen each have interactions to consider, and naproxen interacts with more drugs than ibuprofen does.
Both ibuprofen and naproxen can interact with the following drugs:
- certain blood pressure medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
- diuretics, also called water pills
- the bipolar disorder drug lithium
- methotrexate, which is used for rheumatoid arthritis and some kinds of cancer
- blood thinners such as warfarin
Additionally, naproxen can also interact with the following drugs:
- certain antacid drugs such as h2 blockers and sucralfate
- certain drugs to treat cholesterol such as cholestyramine
- certain drugs for depression such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Use with other conditions
Certain conditions can also affect how ibuprofen and naproxen work in your body. Don’t use either of these drugs without your doctor’s approval if you have or have had any of the following conditions:
- heart attack, stroke, or heart failure
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- ulcers, stomach bleeding, or holes in your gut
- kidney disease
Ibuprofen and naproxen are quite similar, but some differences between them may make one a better option for you. Some main differences include:
- the ages these drugs can treat
- the forms they come in
- how often you have to take them
- the other drugs they may interact with
- their risks for certain side effects
There are steps you can take to lower your risk of serious side effects, however, such as using the lowest possible dose for the shortest time.
As always, contact your doctor if you have any questions about using either of these drugs. Questions you may consider include:
- Is it safe to take ibuprofen or naproxen with my other medications?
- How long should I take ibuprofen or naproxen?
- Can I take ibuprofen or naproxen if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?