How does ibuprofen work?
Ibuprofen is an NSAID, meaning non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. It works in similar ways to aspirin, naproxen, celecoxib, diclofenac, and other medicines in this family.
Ibuprofen helps to relieve your pain by blocking chemicals called prostaglandins. These chemicals are released by the brain at the site of damage, infection or injury, and they’re known to contribute to pain, swelling and fever. By blocking the action of prostaglandins, ibuprofen helps to reduce the amount of pain that you feel, making daily activities more manageable.
However, it’s important to not push yourself too much whilst taking ibuprofen, as it can be easy to forget that you have an injury.
Is ibuprofen safe?
Ibuprofen is safe for a vast majority of people, and is one of the most widely taken painkillers alongside paracetamol. Ibuprofen is often a go-to medicine for minor ailments and injuries, becoming a staple in family first aid kits. However, there are some people that should be careful when it comes to taking paracetamol, as it can cause some undesirable or even dangerous side effects for some.
If you fall into any of the following categories or have been diagnosed with any of these conditions, you shouldn’t buy ibuprofen and should instead talk to your GP about whether it’s safe for you:
- Pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive
- Allergic to ibuprofen, ingredients, or other NSAIDs
- Current or previous stomach ulcer
- Bleeding disorder
- Asthma or previous allergy to anti-inflammatory medicines
- Swelling or irritation inside the nose
- Liver or kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Chicken pox or shingles
- Intolerant to some sugars
Taking ibuprofen if you fall into any of these categories may be dangerous, or cause you to become more ill. Ibuprofen can even affect ovulation in some women, making it difficult to become pregnant, hence why it’s not advised to take it if you’re trying to conceive.
It’s also worth noting that if you take painkillers on a long-term basis, you may be at risk of kidney damage. Never take painkillers for long periods of time without the advice of your doctor.
There are also some medicines that ibuprofen might interact with, causing dangerous side effects or making one medicine less effective. If you currently take any of the following, you should avoid taking ibuprofen unless your doctor has already told you that it’s safe.
Any other ibuprofen
Gingko biloba herbal medicine
Ibuprofen side effects
Given ibuprofen’s widespread use, you’d be forgiven for thinking it doesn’t carry any side effects. However, the drug does have the potential to cause some unpleasant symptoms that can sometimes be dangerous.
It’s important to know what you might experience when taking ibuprofen, and because of this, we recommend that you read the patient information leaflet thoroughly before you take your first tablet.
Some of the most common side effects associated with ibuprofen include:
Pins and needles
Inflammation of stomach lining
On top of these, there are also some more serious side effects that you should know about. If you experience any of the following, you should seek urgent medical help and stop taking ibuprofen:
- Aseptic meningitis. Symptoms include severe headache, high temperature, stiff neck, intolerance to light
- Intestinal bleeding. Symptoms include blood in stools, black and tarry stools, vomiting blood or dark pieces that resemble coffee grounds
- Loss of vision
- DRESS syndrome. Symptoms include skin rash, fever, swollen lymph nodes, increase of white blood cells
- Severe spreading skin rash with blistering of skin, peeling skin, aches, headaches and fever
- Unexplained stomach pain
Ibuprofen also carries a small risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and heart failure. If you think you may be experiencing any of these, call 999 and tell the operator that you’ve taken ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen may worsen conditions such as Crohn’s disease or colitis, so if you have either of these, please check with your GP if it’s safe for you to use NSAIDs before you buy ibuprofen.
How long does it take for ibuprofen to work?
Ibuprofen is a fast-acting drug, and in most cases it starts working within 20-30 minutes after you’ve taken it. The speed that it takes to work is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular drug, as it provides effective pain relief within a very short amount of time.
The effects of ibuprofen generally last between 4-6 hours, so it’s important to keep up with your dosage in order for it to work to its full potential.
The amount of ibuprofen that you take in a day will depend on the strength that you’re taking. If you’re taking the usual 200mg tablets that you can buy in a supermarket, the maximum that you can have is 6 tablets in a 24 hour period, totalling 1200mg. You can take one or two tablets at a time depending on how much relief you need.
If you’re taking 400mg tablets from a pharmacy, you can take up to 3 tablets in 24 hours, also totalling 1200mg. You can only take one 400mg tablet at a time.
If you’ve been prescribed ibuprofen 600mg tablets, your doctor will tell you how much you can take in a day. Generally, 600-1800mg per day is the recommended dose, but if this isn’t enough for your pain, your doctor might suggest taking up to a maximum of 2400mg in a 24-hour period.
Always swallow ibuprofen tablets whole with water and with or after food.
Ibuprofen on empty stomach
Ibuprofen should never be taken on an empty stomach. NSAIDs are known to cause irritation of the stomach lining, and in some cases, they can even trigger stomach ulcers and bleeding. Because of this, it’s recommended that you always take ibuprofen and any other NSAIDs with or after food.
If you’re likely to be on ibuprofen for a long time, or are on high doses of it, your doctor may suggest taking a proton pump inhibitor such as omeprazole alongside ibuprofen. These type of drugs will lower the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.
Ibuprofen and paracetamol
Ibuprofen and paracetamol can be taken together as they work in different ways and don’t interact with each other.
You can take paracetamol and ibuprofen either at the same time, or spaced apart so that your pain relief is more even. Always make sure that you don’t take more than the stated dose for each medicine.
Codeine and ibuprofen
Similar to paracetamol, codeine can also be taken with ibuprofen If your pain levels aren’t controlled by the anti-inflammatory alone. Codeine belongs to the opiate family of medicines, and is a stronger drug than paracetamol. However, as it works differently to ibuprofen, it’s safe to take alongside it.
Sometimes, codeine is mixed with paracetamol to create co-codamol. This is also safe to take with ibuprofen for maximum pain relief.
Naproxen and ibuprofen
Naproxen is also an NSAID, so can’t be taken alongside ibuprofen. However, despite belonging to the same medicinal family, the two drugs do have some differences.
Generally, Naproxen is a long-acting drug, meaning that you don’t need to take it as often as ibuprofen, and is often prescribed to patients with more long term or chronic conditions.
Naproxen is also more likely to cause gastrointestinal issues such as irritation of the stomach lining or ulcers, so is often prescribed along with a medicine such as omeprazole or lansoprazole to lower the risk.
Taking ibuprofen during pregnancy isn’t recommended, especially once you’ve reached the third trimester (final 3 months). However, if your own GP has told you that you can take ibuprofen during your pregnancy, you can do so under their supervision and at the lowest dose possible.
Generally, paracetamol is the safest painkiller to take during pregnancy.
Ibuprofen and asthma
It’s often advised that people with asthma should speak to their doctor before taking ibuprofen. Whilst a vast majority of asthma sufferers are fine whilst taking ibuprofen, there’s a small minority that are affected by a narrowing of the airways whilst taking it. Because of this, it’s recommended that you speak to a pharmacist or your own GP before taking any NSAIDs, even those that you can buy in a supermarket. Until you’ve seen your own doctor, you can take paracetamol safely to relieve some of your pain.
Avoiding ibuprofen is especially important if you’ve previously experienced wheezing after taking it in the past, or after having any other anti-inflammatory medicines as this may mean you have an allergy.
Ibuprofen stomach pain
If you experience stomach pain whilst taking ibuprofen, you should stop taking it and seek medical help. Stomach pain whilst taking NSAIDs could indicate an inflamed stomach lining or an ulcer. If this is the case, stopping treatment with ibuprofen should allow the stomach to heal faster.
If you want to buy ibuprofen, you can do so safely and easily from Doctor4U. We offer both 400mg and 600mg strength and the total cost of the medicine includes a consultation with one of our online doctors. Ordering from Doctor4U is a convenient alternative to seeing your own doctor, as you still receive a prescription from your items, but the difference is that you can complete a consultation at a time that suits you.
If you want to buy ibuprofen or any other medicine online, you should check for a clickable logo that says “click to verify if this website is operating legally”. Ours can be found on the footer of our website on every page, and it takes you to our entry within the MHRA (the government regulating body for medicines and healthcare products. This means that we operate to the highest standards and that your medication adheres to EU criteria.
Advice on Addiction and Medication Restrictions
If you are at all worried or concerned about an addiction to any type of medication, we urge you to speak to a professional for help and advice. Below are links to organisations that can help.
Talk To Frank
NHS Help & Advice On Drug Addiction