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My doctor told me to alternate using ibuprofen and acetaminophen to treat my child's fever. Why?


Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are both appropriate choices for treating a fever. Many doctors recommend that parents alternate giving their child ibuprofen and acetaminophen. There are two possible reasons why alternating treatment would benefit over either medication used alone.

First, ibuprofen and acetaminophen act at different areas in the body to decrease fever. It is thought that combining the two treatments together has a greater effect on decreasing fever than one medication used alone. A recent study has shown that when children were given both ibuprofen and acetaminophen, their fever fell faster, and they needed less medication, their symptoms improved faster, and they had less recurrence of their fever.

Second, ibuprofen and acetaminophen both have side effects. Ibuprofen can cause stomach problems, and acetaminophen can lead to liver damage if dosed inappropriately. When alternating both these medications, lower doses of both are given, which decreases the child's risk of developing side effects.

The downside to alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen is the more complicated dosing schedule. Parents must remember which medication was given each time. Also, ibuprofen and acetaminophen require different doses, which can lead to possible overdosing of either medication.

Remember to not administer both these medications at the same time.

The best way to avoid these problems is to write down the time, name of the medication, and what dose was given.

It is recommended that you speak to your child's doctor before beginning alternating treatment. Each doctor has his or her own opinion regarding the risks and benefits for this treatment option. Your child may have certain medical conditions or use certain medications that would prohibit use of ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

If the doctor does recommend it, ask him or her to be specific about what doses of each medication to use and how frequently each dose should be given.

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Answers to questions regarding information about medications or health conditions are not for diagnostic or treatment purposes and are not conclusive as to the presence or absence of any health condition. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of your medical condition. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of the scientific literature may vary. Walgreens' terms of use and general warranty disclaimer apply to all services provided. If you are in need of immediate medical attention, contact your physician, poison control center or emergency medical professional. If you need to speak with a pharmacist for non-emergency matters, contact your local Walgreens pharmacist or call a pharmacist toll-free at 1 (877) 250-5823.

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