Overview of Advil (Ibuprofen)

Advil, an over-the-counter medication, is a brand name version of ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used to treat mild aches and pain. Each adult-strength tablet of Advil contains 200 milligrams (mg) of ibuprofen. Ibuprofen also comes in a generic form and is the main ingredient of another brand, Motrin.

A man clutches the left side of his chest in pain
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Indications

Advil is used for a variety of common ailments. You can use it for pain relief, to reduce inflammation, and to lower your body temperature if you have a fever.

The speed of onset of pain relief depends on Advil formulation. Its effect typically continues to work for four to eight hours, but you should follow specific label instructions.

Advil can be used to manage minor aches and pains associated with:

  • Common cold
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Toothaches
  • Backaches and muscle aches
  • Minor arthritis pain

Keep in mind that Advil is used for temporary symptomatic relief, meaning that it does not cure any illness or medical condition.

Dosage

When taking Advil, you should use the smallest effective dose to minimize the potential for side effects. Your healthcare provider will help you determine the right dose.

Adults and children 12 years old and over can take up to two tablets of Advil every four to six hours. You should not exceed six tablets in 24 hours or take Advil for more than 10 days unless directed to do so by your healthcare provider.

Adult-strength Advil comes in 200 mg coated tablets, 200 mg film-coated rapid-release tablets, and 200 mg liqui-gels. Advil Liqui-gels are a fast-acting formulation containing solubilized ibuprofen that has been dissolved in a liquid center of a soft capsule.

While regular-strength Advil is recommended for adult use, there are children's forms, including Junior Strength Advil Chewables, Infant Advil Drops, and Children's Advil Suspension. For children, the recommended dose of Advil is based on their weight, but sometimes age can be used as the reference. Special measuring cups or spoons, as well as guidelines to measure your child's dose, are supplied with each package.

How It Works

Advil works through several biochemical mechanisms, some of which are related to the inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme that helps in the production of prostaglandins and thromboxane. Prostaglandins are involved in mediating pain and fevers, thromboxane is involved in promoting blood clots, and COX also helps maintain a protective layer in the stomach lining.

Advil's therapeutic effects of reducing pain and lowering fever are based on the reduced action of prostaglandins. The gastrointestinal side effects of Advil are also related to its inhibition of COX and thromboxane.

Side Effects, Risks, and Contraindications

Advil can cause side effects, but it is important to know that the side effects, risks, and contraindications of Advil are the same as those of other brands of ibuprofen and very similar to those of other NSAIDs.

Side Effects

Advil and other NSAIDs can cause an upset stomach. You can reduce the chances of developing an upset stomach if you take it with food or milk. Advil can also cause bleeding, mostly stomach bleeding. It's important to be aware of the symptoms of stomach bleeding, which include dark stools, fatigue, dizziness, and blood in the vomit.

Advil can also cause easy bruising, prolonged bleeding from a cut, blood in the urine, and bleeding into the eye.

Advil rarely causes allergies, producing symptoms including hives, facial swelling, asthma, skin rash, blisters, or shock.

Advil can increase the chances of developing kidney damage. This risk is enhanced in patients who are dehydrated or volume-depleted. If you have underlying kidney disease, such as due to diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other cause, please refrain from using Advil or another NSAID as much as possible. If you must take it, please make sure you are adequately hydrated.

Advil can also decrease your blood sodium level and increase your blood potassium levels. If you take blood pressure medications, which tend to raise blood potassium or reduce blood sodium levels, please refrain from taking Advil or another NSAID. Advil can also cause volume overload, so if you take medications to get rid of extra water in your body, you should not take Advil.

Risks

Advil can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. The risk increases with higher dosages or prolonged use of Advil. Aspirin, another NSAID, does not increase this risk—in fact, it is often used to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Contraindications

You should not take Advil just before or after having heart bypass surgery. Also, unless otherwise directed, pregnant women should not take Advil during their last trimester.

Several factors increase the risk of bleeding with Advil. Do not use it if you have any of the following contraindications unless directed by your healthcare provider:

  • Age over 60
  • Taking a blood thinner
  • Using another NSAID
  • History of ulcer
  • Use of alcohol

A Word From Verywell

Advil is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter medications. It is typically very safe, but there are risks. Be sure to follow directions and not to take more than the recommended dose. If you have persistent pain or fever, or symptoms that do not improve with Advil, be sure to see your healthcare provider, as your symptoms could be the sign of an underlying condition that requires a medical evaluation.

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5 Sources
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.
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