Sheena, a mum pharmacist explains if Calpol and Nurofen can be given together.
Calpol is a commonly known brand of children’s Paracetamol, whilst Nurofen contains a different drug altogether, which is called Ibuprofen. I frequently get asked the question: “Can I give both of these medications to my baby at the same time?” The answer, like most things, is a little complicated, so hopefully I can make it a little bit clearer for you here!
Paracetamol (Calpol) works to reduce pain and fever in your child. It can be used for things like headache, teething pain, toothache, earache, sore throats, colds and flu, aches, pains and fever post vaccination.
Ibuprofen (Nurofen) is a pain killer and anti-inflammatory which also reduces pain and fever and is useful for the same types of illness or discomforts as Paracetamol but can also be useful for minor aches and sprains.
Unfortunately, most parents or caregivers come across these types of ailments at some stage or another when caring for a young child or baby and are faced with the question of which medication is best. Conflicting advice lays all over the internet about whether one medication should be chosen over another and if, in the case of a severe fever, both can be given at the same time. Recent guidelines published, both reassured parents and caused concern, due to the way in which they were translated by the media.
As a Pharmacist and mum myself, my ethos, which is in line with my code of conduct as a healthcare professional, is to give the lowest dose of medication necessary for the minimum required time. That is underpinned by our standard, that the correct medication is given to the correct patient, at the correct time and in the most appropriate form. No child needs to suffer unnecessary pain or distress and in the case of fever, or illness, it can actually be detrimental to under-dose your child.
So, what’s the best approach?
I recommend administering Paracetamol to your child if they have any of the conditions listed above and are feeling distressed. Always read the leaflet to ensure you are giving the recommended dosage based on your child’s age. If after an hour, your child’s symptoms have not been alleviated, then you can administer the appropriate dose of Ibuprofen.
I always start with Paracetamol as it is easier on the tummy. However, it is worth noting that Paracetamol works for 4-6 hours and can only be given a maximum of four times in 24 hours, whereas Ibuprofen works for 6-8 hours and can only be given for a maximum of three doses in 24 hours. You may choose to go with Ibuprofen rather than Paracetamol if you are administering medication when you are going to bed. It will last for longer and improve everyone’s chances of having a good night’s sleep!!! The main message is that you should not routinely administer both medicines at the same time – you should administer one and see what your baby’s response is, as they may not need the second medication. Obviously, after an hour, if you are unhappy with the response and feel they need additional medication, then it is perfectly safe to administer the second product, whilst sticking to the recommended dosage regimens!
I hope this helps to clarify the confusing topic of ‘over the counter’ medications for children. Please note that there are many products on the market with different names, which contain either Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. You have to be mindful that you do not administer two of the same medication, as this would lead to overdose.