Acetaminophen and ibuprofen in the treatment of pediatric fever: a narrative review

Ian M. Paul, Philip D. Walson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: A narrative review of randomized, blinded, controlled studies assessing the antipyretic effect of ibuprofen versus acetaminophen or combined or alternating treatment in children was conducted. Methods: Searches of the PubMed and Embase literature databases were conducted to identify relevant articles. Selected articles were limited to studies published in English that investigated OTC oral tablet and syrup formulations of acetaminophen and ibuprofen; there were no publication date limits. Open-label studies, nonrandomized studies, and those evaluating intravenous or suppository formulations of acetaminophen or ibuprofen were excluded. Variations in designs, endpoints, methods, and patient populations precluded our ability to conduct a formal systematic review. Results: At physician-directed dosing (acetaminophen 15 mg/kg vs ibuprofen 10 mg/kg), no significant differences in antipyretic effects from 0‒6 h and between 0‒6, ‒12, ‒24, or ‒48 h, with single or multiple-doses, respectively, were observed. Tolerability profiles at physician dosing were similar. In 14 over-the-counter dose comparisons (acetaminophen, 10–15 mg/kg; ibuprofen, 2.5–10 mg/kg), antipyresis favored ibuprofen in 6, was similar between groups in 7, and favored acetaminophen (15 mg/kg vs ibuprofen 5 mg/kg) in 1 comparison. Both medications were well tolerated. Efficacy favored combination over individual components in 3 of 4 studies; alternating use results were mixed. All combination or alternating treatments were well tolerated. Conclusions: Antipyretic effects of ibuprofen and acetaminophen are similar at physician-directed doses; ibuprofen may be modestly superior at over-the-counter doses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1363-1375
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Medical Research and Opinion
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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