Brandon practices as a community pharmacist in MN. He started as a pharmacy tech in 2003 and received his PharmD in 2011 from the U of M.
Ask a Pharmacist
A mother with four sons is looking for a fever reducer and general pain medicine for everyone. Her sons are 3, 6, 8, and 14 years old. She prefers to use ibuprofen for herself. Her younger two boys do not like taking liquid medicine.
She asks, "Can I just get adult ibuprofen tablets and use them for everyone?"
The Short Answer: It's All About the Dose
In terms of how well it works and how safe it is, there is no difference between medicine designed for adults and medicine designed for children as long as the dose is appropriate. If you're able to carefully dose the medicine appropriately, you can use adult ibuprofen tablets for children 3, 6, 8, and 14 years old.
The Long Answer: It's All About the Dose
Ibuprofen, like any other medicine, works because of the active ingredient. In this case, ibuprofen is the active ingredient. In general, if the active ingredient is the same, the only difference between children and adult formulations is how the medicine is taken, what it tastes or smells like, and how much active ingredient is in each dose.
In the case of ibuprofen, an adult tablet contains 200 mg whereas the children's liquid has 100 mg per every 5 milliliters. See the chart below for appropriate dosing for children of different ages.
Recommended Ibuprofen Dose by Age
|Person's age||Adult tablet dose (200 mg)||Children's liquid dose (100 mg/5 mL)|
As you can see in the chart, for children you sometimes have to cut a tablet in half. Likewise, an adult has to drink a lot of children's liquid to get an appropriate dose.
If you compare the dose for a 6 and 8-year-old, you can see that the tablet dose is the same, whereas the liquid dose changes just slightly. This is because the tablet can't be correctly cut any smaller than in half, whereas liquids can be dosed right down to the last drop.
If you follow proper dosing, a child can safely use adult tablets and an adult can safely use children's liquid.
Why Do We Have Different Versions?
There are two reasons why we have adult and child versions of the same medicine.
It is convenient because we can pack more medicine into an adult form, so you don't need to take quite as much. Also, most children have trouble swallowing pills or even bad-tasting liquid medicine. We go to lots of trouble to make medicine so that people who need it are willing and able to use it. Can you imagine if all medicine was provided by a rectal suppository?
Read More From Healthproadvice
It is safe because children's forms always contain a lower concentration, making it harder to overdose. Children can't handle as wide a dose difference as adults can, so it's very important to get just the right dose. Liquids let you do that.
A few other things to keep in mind when figuring out what medicine to give a child:
- Not all tablets can be cut, and not all capsules can be opened.
- Medicines made for children are always safer for children.
- Most kids can't swallow tablets. Be careful.
- Not all adult medicine can be given to children.
- The difference between helping your child and hurting them is the dose.
Remember: Safety First!
If you use proper precautions and careful dosing, adult medicine can be just fine for children. I do not suggest making a habit out of this, however. Children's forms are always safer.
The information provided on this page is intended for general educational and informational use only. It is not specific, personalized healthcare advice for you. For healthcare advice regarding your particular situation, talk to members of your healthcare team.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can 11 yr old take adult ibuprofen?
Answer: Yes, as long as it is dosed appropriately for their weight.
Mrs.Simmons on August 21, 2017:
I think as long as you are careful and fully read Information & Direction's, then all should be well when trying to dose a child within the age limitations of the Milligram with the Medication.
Corrine on August 17, 2017:
My 2 year old son accidentally ate a full tablet of ibuprofen, will he be okay?
Christel Williams on July 19, 2017:
Thanks for helping me with my kids
Brandon Young (author) from Minnestoa on June 01, 2017:
I'm glad you found the information helpful.
Abigail on May 31, 2017:
thank you! You saved my sister's life!!I couldn't be more grateful!
Brandon Young (author) from Minnestoa on August 24, 2016:
Thanks for pointing this out. When I did the chat I was using a range, and for adults I guess I used the top of the range, while for kids I went for mid-range. In any case, I see that that's confusing so I changed it to make the doses equivalent.
Wendi on August 22, 2016:
Why does your chart recommend that an adult take 2 tablets of 200mg (400mg) of ibuprofen, and then the same chart recommends that if an adult were to use children's liquid ibuprofen, they would need to take 40 ml? At 100mg/5ml wouldn't a 40ml dose equal 800mg of ibuprofen? How is that comparable to the 400mg for the adult dose? Are you saying that adults should take twice the number of mg if using children's liquid or are your chart numbers faulty?
Brandon Young (author) from Minnestoa on November 09, 2015:
That's definitely true, H.O'Neill. Most medications, including ibuprofen, have weight-based dosing. The dosing chart above was made using a "standard" weight for each age. But it's for illustrative purposes only. For any individual there are factors such as other medications, health conditions, condition being treated, and, of course, weight that need to be considered to recommend a dose. You should always check with a healthcare professional if you're not familiar with a medication's dosing. I think it's even more important for kids' medication.
H.O'Neill on November 09, 2015:
Doesn't the weight of the child play a role? A lot of 14 year olds are already the average weight of an adult.
Dawn on May 16, 2015:
This was a very informative reply to a question i also had. My daughter will not have medicine, but will happily take a tablet so this reassures me when she needs ibuprofen! Thank you
Open on December 09, 2014:
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