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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 aim to do the same thing; pain relief for children. They are both brand names rather rather than the name of the actual medicine. Calpol uses paracetamol and Nurofen uses ibuprofen. To make things even more confusing, Calpol also make an ibuprofen drug called ‘Calprofen’ which does not contain paracetamol.
Calpol and paracetamol are useful for general pain relief whilst also helping with fevers as it can lower temperatures.
Nurofen and ibuprofen also helps to relieve pain but also act as an anti inflammatory and useful for aches and sprains or conditions where there is swelling.
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 it’ 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 in 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 as it lasts longer and is milder on the tummy, 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.
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.
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.
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
During the course of young children’s life they will ‘teethe’ multiple times which can result in broken sleep, crying and sore gums and mouth which is hard for everyone in the house including the adults. Medical intervention should be avoided where necessary but a bottle of Calpol or Nurofen can often take the edge off as it contains temperature lowering paracetamol or anti inflammatory ibuprofen.
If you breastfeed, it is common that a long feed can help get over teething much quicker than medicine. If they’re grumpy, get on a comfortable feeding chair or feeding pillow for a long session. Make sure they have their favourite comforter if they have one.
Calpol would be our first recommendation and a fever is more common than swelling, but if you find your child really does have swollen gums then that would be best for that.
Try to avoid using both at the same time, instead alternating between one and the other.
If you notice one works better than the other, then prioritise that, but if you see one seems to get a bad reaction then stop its use immediately.