A review of ibuprofen and acetaminophen use in febrile children and the occurrence of asthma-related symptoms

Clin Ther. 2007 Dec;29(12):2716-23. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2007.12.021.


Background: Although many studies have investigated the safety and tolerability of ibuprofen or acetaminophen (paracetamol) use in children, few have specifically examined the association of ibuprofen or acetaminophen and the occurrence of asthma in pediatric populations.

Objectives: The primary objective of this literature review was to ascertain whether ibuprofen use exacerbates the symptoms of asthma or asthma-related adverse events in febrile children, and how it compares with acetaminophen use. The secondary objective was to develop an algorithm that allows for the consideration of ibuprofen treatment in children by health care professionals.

Methods: Twelve electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Database, DARE, British Nursing Index, CBIB, Derwent Drug File, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, Pharm-Line, CINAHL, PASCAL, SCZZ-SciSearch) were searched from their year of inception to June 2007, to identify English-language articles pertaining to ibuprofen or acetaminophen use in the asthmatic pediatric population. The following search terms were used: asthma, child, pediatric, pediatrics, ibuprofen, Nurofen, Brufen, Motrin, Advil, propionic acid, paracetamol, and acetaminophen.

Results: Of 472 articles retrieved, 3 were relevant for the development of the algorithm. Two were subanalyses of a major randomized controlled trial (RCT), the Boston University Fever Study. Therefore, some overlap should be noted. The third article was another RCT. Other studies and review articles identified were used for the discussion. Findings from the literature analysis indicated that the use of ibuprofen in the pediatric population does not exacerbate asthma morbidity. Two of the studies demonstrated that ibuprofen was associated with a lower risk for asthma morbidity in febrile children with or without asthma compared with acetaminophen. In one study, ibuprofen use was associated with a lower relative risk for hospitalization (0.63) and outpatient visits (0.56) for asthma compared with acetaminophen. In the second study, acetaminophen use was associated with the exacerbation of wheezing in febrile children. This observation was corroborated by the findings of other studies that revealed an increased risk for asthma, wheezing, and other atopic outcomes with acetaminophen use.

Conclusions: The evidence reviewed in this article suggests a low risk for asthma-related morbidity associated with ibuprofen use in children and a possible protective and therapeutic effect compared with acetaminophen. The findings also suggest that acetaminophen use in children is associated with an increased risk for wheezing. The pediatric algorithm developed might serve as a guide for health care professionals in assessing suitability for ibuprofen use in children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / administration & dosage
  • Acetaminophen / adverse effects*
  • Algorithms
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / chemically induced*
  • Child
  • Fever / drug therapy*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / administration & dosage
  • Ibuprofen / adverse effects*
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology
  • Risk


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen