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Calpol and Nurofen are the two of the most common painkillers for babies and young children which are household names in the UK. They can be bought without the need to see a doctor or a pharmacist and generally safe to use from around 1 month old.
This articles explains the difference between the two, which is better to deal with an emerging tooth and other symptoms and whether or not they can be used at the same time.
What is the difference between calpol and nurofen
Calpol and Nurofen are both medications that are used to relieve pain and reduce fever in children. Calpol is a brand of paracetamol, while Nurofen is a brand of ibuprofen. Both medications can be effective in relieving mild to moderate pain and reducing fever in children, but they work in slightly different ways.
Paracetamol works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that cause pain and inflammation. It is generally considered to be a safe and effective pain reliever for children, with few side effects.
Ibuprofen, on the other hand, works by blocking the production of both prostaglandins and thromboxanes. This makes it a more potent pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent than paracetamol. However, ibuprofen can also cause side effects in some children, such as stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
The key difference here is thromboxane.
Thromboxanes are chemical substances that are produced by the body in response to injury or inflammation. They play a role in several processes in the body, including blood clotting and inflammation.
When the body is injured (such as erupting teeth), thromboxanes help to constrict blood vessels and increase blood clotting, which can help to stop bleeding and prevent further injury. Thromboxanes also play a role in inflammation, which is a natural response of the body to injury or infection. Inflammation helps to protect the body by bringing immune cells and other substances to the site of injury or infection.
Is Calpol or Nurofen best for teething pains?
Teething pains are a combination of swollen and tender gums and breaking of the skin from the sharp teeth emerging. But, teething can then lead to other ailments such as a high temperature/fever which can itself lead to diarrhoea, rashes, vomiting and a very grumpy and tired baby.
Because every baby’s experience is different in how their body reacts and how much they can ‘put up with’ which medicine to use (and what for) can be a bit tricky – a healthcare professional doesn’t need to be involved but it is super useful for parents to be clued in on how these two types of pain relief work to relieve discomfort.
Both Calpol and Nurofen work fine for a baby who is experiencing discomfort with their teeth, especially at night where their sleep is disturbed. Both medication options will relieve their pain a little bit and help them forget about it for a couple of hours, enough time to nod off for example.
For general teething pain both Calpol and Nurofen can do the job but in others it may be ineffective.
When Calpol is best
We recommend starting with Calpol because it is milder on the tummy and lasts longer, if you find that Calpol works then just stick with that – pain and a bit of a fever is perhaps most common with teething so it suits it best.
It’s important to remember that no pain relief suitable for a baby will magically get rid of all the pain, all it will do is try to make it a little bit more manageable to get through this particular bout of discomfort. So, if you do give them Calpol and they’re still a little bit grizzly then this is to be expected.
If your baby is in general pain, nothing terrible, or looking flustered with a high temperature then Calpol is best. However, Calpol has never really made teething pains go away and the result was negligible.
To put it in context, 10ml of calpol is 240mg of paracetamol. A single paracetamol tablet is 500mg. We’ve all had a hangover and we all know how little effect the tablets have.
When Nurofen is best
As we’ve previously mentioned, Nurofen is a pain reliever and an anti inflammatory drug. This means it can tackle the general nerve pain but also reduce swelling. Gum swelling can be quite common and cause a fair but of pain for babies. Nurofen or other ibuprofen based medication can help keep the swelling down much better than Calpol can.
Nurofen may be best if the baby seems to be in pain but no sign of a fever or high temperature. Use a thermometer to confirm.
However, ibuprofen can be a little bit harsh on babies tummies in large doses so make sure to follow the insurrections and perhaps look at teething gel instead.
10ml of nurofen contains 200mg of ibuprofen. This is the equivalent of one single tablet for adults.
What about both?
It is generally accepted to give the child the minimum amount of medication over the longest period of time possible. All young children will be teething on and off for the first 6 months, it is a completely natural thing to happen and the pain in most cases is manageable with plenty of rest, fluids and cuddles. Calpol and Nurofen should be used to help them get to sleep or soothe a tooth at its peak.
Here some sources which suggest the same:
- NHS: “Pain Relief for Children” – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pain-relief-children/
- British Medical Association (BMA): “Pain Relief for Children” – https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/health-living/medicines/pain-relief-for-children
- Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH): “Pain Relief for Children” – https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/pain-relief-children
You can use these medicines together but we don’t recommend and you do not want to overdose on either ibuprofen or paracetamol out of habit and dependancy. Therefore, our advice is to not use these two together unless your baby is really struggling or you have been given guidance by a doctor, nurse or a pharmacist.
If you do, alternate a dosage between the two rather than at the same time. For example, if your baby has Calpol at 1, then wait until 6 or so before you give them ibuprofen. If symptoms persist with both then speak with a paediatrician.
Summary – Teething: Calpol or Nurofen
When young children are teething, it can be a tough time for everyone in the house. They may experience broken sleep, crying, and sore gums and mouth, which can be difficult for adults to cope with as well. It’s usually best to try to avoid medical intervention if possible, but sometimes giving your child a dose of Calpol or Nurofen can help to ease their discomfort. Calpol contains paracetamol, which can help to lower a fever, while Nurofen contains ibuprofen, which is an anti-inflammatory medication that can help to reduce swelling.
If you breastfeed your child, it can be especially helpful to offer a long feed when they’re teething. This can often help to get them through the teething process more quickly than medication. Make sure you’re comfortable, using a feeding chair or feeding pillow if necessary, and have your child’s favorite comforter nearby if they have one.
In general, we recommend trying Calpol first, since a fever is more common than swelling during the teething process. However, if you notice that your child’s gums are particularly swollen, Nurofen may be a better choice. It’s generally best to avoid using both medications at the same time, and instead alternate between one and the other. If you find that one medication seems to work better for your child than the other, you can prioritise it. However, if you notice that your child is having a bad reaction to one of the medications, stop using it immediately.