By Sally Robertson, BSc
Ibuprofen is an example of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). These drugs decrease the hormones that cause pain, tenderness, stiffness and inflammation. Ibuprofen is used to treat symptoms such as back pain, tooth pain, headache, minor injury, the common cold and menstrual cramps.
The use of ibuprofen can give rise to a number of side effects and the medication should be taken at the lowest possible dose and for the shortest duration needed to control symptoms. This drug can cause dangerous cardiovascular or circulatory events such as heart attack or stroke, particularly if it is used in the long term. Ibuprofen should not be used either just before or after a heart bypass procedure. Ibuprofen can also cause gastrointestinal problems such as bleeding or perforation. These conditions can occur very suddenly, without warning and can be fatal, particularly in older people.
Ibuprofen can harm the unborn baby in mothers who take it during the last 3 months of gestation. Women taking ibuprofen should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Whether or not ibuprofen can pass into the breast milk and harm a nursing baby is not yet clear and mothers who are breast feeding must not use this medication without telling their doctor.
People who are taking aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke should avoid taking ibuprofen because it can reduce the protective effects of aspirin. People who have to use these drugs in combination should always take the ibuprofen 30 minutes after taking the aspirin or 8 hours beforehand.
As ibuprofen and other NSAIDs are present in many combination medicines, people taking ibuprofen should consult their doctor or pharmacist before they use any other treatment for pain, allergies or colds. Taking several products that contain ibuprofen can mean a person consumes too much of the substance. Overdose symptoms include drowsiness, black or bloody stool, nausea, vomiting, shallow breathing, fainting, stomach pain and coma.
When to stop taking ibuprofen
People should stop taking ibuprofen and seek medical attention if they experience any signs of allergy after taking the drug. Examples of these signs include hives, swelling in the face, throat, tongue or lips and breathing difficulty.
People should also stop taking ibuprofen and seek medical attention if they experience any of the serious side effects of this medication. Serious side effects include the following:
- Chest pain, difficulty breathing, vision or balance problems
- Nausea, abdominal pain, appetite loss, dark urine, jaundice
- Black, bloody, tarry stools
- Swelling or weight gain
- Decreased urination
- Fever, severe headache, sore throat
- Skin rash, peeling skin, blistering
- Bruising, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, pain
- Stiff neck, chills, seizures
Some of the less serious side effects that can occur when using ibuprofen include the following:
- Itchy skin
- Ringing ears
- Gas and bloating
- Diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, stomach upset
- Dizziness, nervousness
- Blurred vision
Last Updated: Dec 22, 2014