Fever Reducers and Pain Relievers for Kids

There are many medications available that can relieve pain and bring down fevers, but they aren't all safe for children. In fact, in the United States, there are only two over the counter pain reliever/fever reducers that are appropriate for young children. They are sold under several different brand names, but the active ingredients are the same regardless of the brand.

Young girl taking medicine.
Paz Ruiz Luque / E+ / Getty Images


Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol. It is approved for use in children as young as 2 months old.

Be sure to follow your healthcare provider's instructions or the package directions and do not give more than one medication that contains acetaminophen. Although it is a safe and effective fever reducer, too much can lead to liver damage.

If your baby is younger than two months and has a fever, do not try to give him a smaller dose of Tylenol—take him to the Emergency Room. Infants under 8 weeks old with fevers almost always need specialized testing to determine the source. 


Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in Motrin and Advil. It is also sold under many store brand names and in generic form. It is safe for children over 6 months old. 

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID), meaning it works by reducing inflammation so it is generally more effective at reducing pain caused by irritation than acetaminophen but it is a very effective fever reducer as well. 

Which One Is Better?

Studies have shown no significant difference between acetaminophen and ibuprofen when providing pain relief in kids. However, there is evidence that ibuprofen is more effective at bringing down fevers and keeping them down longer than acetaminophen. If your child is 6 months old or older, ibuprofen may work slightly better for fever. However, you should use the one that works best for your child. 

What About Alternating Them?

It is fairly common practice in the pediatric world to alternate acetaminophen and ibuprofen when a child has a fever. Many healthcare providers recommend this and sometimes parents do it simply because other parents suggested it. When done correctly, it should be safe. The problem with this recommendation is there is no standard and alternating medications often leads to confusion and in some cases, overdose. 

The likelihood that mistakes can be made when alternating medications increase when more than one caregiver is involved and may not know which was given last. 

If you do choose to alternate these fever reducers, keep a written log of what medication was given at what time and do not exceed the maximum recommended dose of either medication in a 24 hour period. It's important to note that acetaminophen should not be taken more than 5 times in 24 hours. Although it can be given every 4 hours, if it is needed around the clock, a dose will have to be skipped or more than 4 hours will need to elapse between some doses to be sure the maximum daily limit is not exceeded. 

Children should not take aspirin because it has been linked to a very serious complication called Reye syndrome. Unless specifically recommended by your child's healthcare provider (for certain illnesses and medical conditions), do not give your child aspirin. 

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Kristina Duda, RN
Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.