Which Pain Reliever Is Right For Your Child?

Posted on: 11 September 2015

From a minor muscle strain to a sore throat to a fever, most of your child's minor aches and pains can be made better with an over-the-counter pain relief medication. But how do you know which one is right for your child? 

Choosing Pain Medication for Your Child

You should talk to your pediatrician about the best pain medication for your child's age and illness. Here's the scoop on the most common options:

1. Acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen is considered safe for children of all ages when given at the right dosage

In most cases with young children, acetaminophen is used as a fever reducer. It may not be effective as a pain reliever in children under age 2. It can be effective for minor issues, like headaches or sore throats, in older children.

2. Ibuprofen.

Sold under several brand names, ibuprofen can help ease pain and discomfort associated with colds. It's generally recommended for children over 6 months old, and should be given only with doctor approval under 2 years of age.

Ibuprofen can also reduce inflammation, making it a good choice for a muscle strain in older children. 

Too much ibuprofen can cause stomach or intestinal discomfort, so be sure to limit your use of it with your children. If you need to use it for more than three consecutive days, check with your doctor first.

3. Aspirin.

While children commonly took aspirin as recently as 20 years ago, these days doctors do not recommend that aspirin be given to kids under age 18 for any reason. 

That's because of a rare but potentially fatal disease called Reye Syndrome. Reye, also called Reye's, causes swelling in the brain and liver; it is linked to taking aspirin while suffering from a viral infection. 

Never give your child aspirin, even low-dose aspirin, with the approval of your pediatrician. This includes products that contain aspirin, so read labels carefully.

Giving Pain Medication 

The most important part of giving pain medication is to follow the label's -- and your doctor's -- instructions carefully. You can avoid giving the wrong medication or dosage by doing the following:

  • Read the label each time you give a medication. Don't assume you know the information or dosage without a reminder.
  • Double check the dosage. It's important to make sure you're giving the right dose. Check measurement labels to be sure you're really giving milliliters and not tablespoons, for example.
  • Use the dosing cup that comes with the medicine. Don't use a different measuring cup or a spoon, as you might not deliver an exact dose or you may give too much. Rinse out the cup and store it in the box with the medicine bottle so you don't misplace it.
  • Don't give medicines in the dark. You may not measure right and it's harder to tell if your child finishes the dose.
  • If you're giving multiple medications, check to be sure they don't have the same active ingredient -- you might overdose. Also be sure that the active ingredients aren't at odds with each other. 

If you have any problems, questions or concerns, be sure to check with your pediatrician. You can call the after-hours line and speak with the doctor on call or a pediatric nurse if your doctor is not available.