Ibuprofen for Pain Control in Children: New Value for an Old Molecule

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2019 Jun;35(6):448-453. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001505.


Background: Acute pain is one of the major complaints reported in pediatric emergency departments and general wards. Recently, both the US Food and Drug Administration and European Medicine Agency emitted some warnings regarding the use of opioids, including codeine, in children.

Objective: The aims of this study were summarizing the main pharmacological aspects of ibuprofen, discussing the current evidence about the use of ibuprofen in different and specific clinical settings, and providing a comparison with acetaminophen and/or codeine, according to available studies.

Study design and methods: Studies evaluating ibuprofen for the management of acute pain in children were extracted from the PubMed and MEDLINE database within the period ranging from 1985 through 2017. After discussing safety of ibuprofen and its concomitant use with acetaminophen, the specific indications for the clinical practice were considered.

Results: Ibuprofen resulted to be more effective than acetaminophen, and comparable to the combination acetaminophen-codeine, for the control of acute pain related to musculoskeletal pain. Moreover, similar results have been reported also in the management of toothache and inflammatory diseases of the oral cavity and pharynx. Ibuprofen resulted to be useful as a first approach to episodic headache. Finally, the role of ibuprofen in the management of postoperative pain and, particularly, after tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy has been reconsidered recently.

Conclusions: Ibuprofen resulted to be the most studied nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug in the management of acute pain in children; in general, it showed a good safety profile and provided evidence of effectiveness, despite some differences according to the specific clinical context.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use
  • Acute Pain / drug therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / therapeutic use*
  • Pain Management
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen