Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) for Children: Care Instructions

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NSAIDs relieve pain and fever. They also reduce swelling and inflammation. You can get these medicines over the counter or with a prescription.

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is a common over-the-counter NSAID for children. Aspirin is also an NSAID. But do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.

Make sure your child takes NSAIDS exactly as prescribed. Do not use ibuprofen if your child is less than 6 months old unless the doctor gave you instructions to use it. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. If your child takes an over-the-counter NSAID, read and follow all instructions on the label.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

What should you know about NSAIDs?

  • The most common side effects from NSAIDs are stomachaches, heartburn, and nausea. NSAIDs may irritate the stomach lining. If the medicine upsets your child's stomach, your child can try taking it with food. But if that doesn't help, talk with your doctor to make sure it's not a more serious problem.
  • NSAIDs can raise the risk of kidney damage, skin reactions, and bleeding in the stomach and intestines. The risks are greater if your child takes NSAIDs at higher doses or for longer than the instructions say.
  • Do not give your child an over-the-counter NSAID for longer than 10 days. Talk to your doctor first.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your child passes maroon or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's stools are black and tarlike or have streaks of blood.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.