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Tylenol vs. Motrin

On a recent Saturday morning run as I was recounting Carter's experience with a febrile seizure, we landed on the topic of Tylenol vs. Motrin.  Prior to this experience I used Tylenol for fevers and as the primary pain reliever, not paying too much attention to the fact that there were other options.  I really had only thought Infants' Tylenol was the only fever reducer / pain reliever safe for kids!  So, it was a bit of an epiphany when one of the other mamas mentioned that overuse of Acetaminophen can cause liver damage.  Can anyone separate out the facts?  Is Motrin a more effective fever reducer than Tylenol?  Does Acetaminophen only bring down a fever by one degree?  I know there are some nurse-mamas and doctor-mamas out there, so can anyone provide any clarification?  Of course, we should all check with our pediatricians, but some healthy discussion on this topic wouldn't hurt.


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I've been wondering the same thing. I'll be interested in hearing what others have to say.

It seems that Kaiser takes a very strong stance towards only using Tylenol for younger children. I asked both our pediatrician and pharmacist about using Motrin and they both told me that Tylenol is much safer and well-tested method of reducing a fever. I can't remember the details but they told me something to the effect that there just hasn't been enough testing done of Motrin and young children to conclude it's a more safe route to go.

On the other hand, almost every mother I talk to seems to think the opposite and they always suggest Motrin. I think part of the appeal is that its dosage lasts longer than Tylenol. I've stuck with Tyleonl thus far and it's worked for us. I just try not to give too much or too often.

All I know is that the overuse of ibuprophen (advil) can cause kidney failure. I think, but I'm not a medical professional, that one needs to consume huge quantities of tylenol in order to have said organ failure. It seems that if your child has enough fevers to warrant that much tylenol, you have a bigger problem on your hands. I could be wrong, though.

We use both interchangeably. Typically I tend towards the ibuprofen route because it seems to last longer and if the fever is accompanied by a sore throat or other aches and pains, it helps reduce those better (For me anyway). Recently, though, a doctor told my father in law that tylenol is better for reducing fevers. I think massive amounts of either can affect the organs so use sparingly (Andrew LOVES the flavor and sweetness of medicine so we have to be careful when he says he "needs" it). But definitely don't delay if there's a fever. Luckily Andrew seems to be like me... rarely gets a fever even when he's sick.

I ws advised (by a Kaiser nurse) to use Ibuprofin for teething because it also reduces inflamation. Recently however, I gave it to Anna when she had a high fever due to illness and it didn't touch the fever. I subsequently gave her a dose of Tylenol and the fever came right down! We'll continue to use both, but for different purposes.

For years our pediatrician has always recommended alternating between the two during the course of a fever. I would imagine this is in order to not receive too much of either kind (but I honestly can not remember why he states alternating is the wisest choice).

I've heard that alternating is good, too -and also not treating a fever if it's low-grade (for me, that means sub 100). Tommy hasn't had too many fevers, so it hasn't been an issue much, but either one has seemed to work well when he's got teething pain. And, for what it's worth, acetaminophen is one of the most-overdosed drugs in the US - presumably because it's one of the most widely taken, but I use it with caution, for sure.

He is not our pediatrician, but my husband, who is a pediatric ICU doc, alternates between the two for our children. I have never asked him why, though.

Tylenol and ibuprofen use different pathways in exerting their effects.

As a physician (but not pediatrician) I can say that large amounts of either ibuprofen or tylenol can cause problems with the kidney and/or liver. However, in cases with occasional use in healthy children, with the specific dosing instructions provided with each, I think that there is no worry with regards to overdose. I personally alternate when I have had a persistently febrile or teething little girl recently. I think that us medical types learn that in our training...just so that you have two drugs acting two different ways, avoiding overdose or side effects of either, and actually getting to dose a medication more frequently (most drugs can be given every 4 hours...if you use two different ones, you can stagger them to be giving something every 2 hours).

I am not sure if one works better than the other for fever reduction. I personally favor ibuprofen for myself, but it was interesting to note that tylenol can be used for children younger than the age listed for ibuprofen (i think that ibuprofen is preferably for use in infants 6 months and greater...)

In any case, in a recent visit to my pediatrician, she recommended only treating fever if the child was not taking fluids.

We don't use either. We just let the fever runs its course, though we haven't had febrile seizures, either. If I was worried about that I may try a lukewarm bath, first.

I asked my mom, a pediatrician, about it. She recommends motrin/ibuprofen for temps over 102.5 because it's more effective in reducing fevers. But, the motrin/ibuprofen can also cause gastrointestinal irritation, so she only recommends when the fever is that high. Otherwise, the tylenol/acetaminophen for the lower temps, though it can cause liver damage in high quantities. We don't medicate often and only do so when the temp is super-high (i.e. over 103), so we usually use the Motrin. (Philly likes the flavors better too - blueberry).

P.S. for kid's with pickier palattes, going with name-brand (and not generic) helps. the taste & texture is much better.

Lots of good advice and experiences. I think we will probably use Motrin for high fevers and Tylenol for other situations. We don't medicate that often, but it's good to know what probably works better under different circumstances.

I have also found that ibuprofen works best for high fevers, and lower fevers I don't medicate unless there are a lot of aches and pains.

As a nurse, I have recommended staggering acetominophen with ibuprofen for arthritic pain in patients who can not tolerate the side effects of narcotics. It has been effective, but I have not seen studies to prove. Currently I have an elderly patient staggering these two meds for her moderate to severe pain related to an auto accident and she states that she is less drowsy and her pain is improving unlike when she took Darvocet.

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Little bit of statistics to think about...Overdoses of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, send 56,000 people to emergency rooms every year and kill roughly 200. It's the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. Now is that something you want to give to your children?

One of the most popular ways of helping infants deal with mouth soreness from teething is to let them chew on cold things. A wet washcloth is ideal because babies like the rough texture and the cold water eases swelling in the gums. Best of all, you can mop up some of the drool before it makes its way all over your shoulder! Other cool items include refrigerated teething rings (check them to make sure your child doesn't bite holes in them), popsicles (preferably made of juice or low-sugar liquids like frozen herb teas) or chilled vegetables that can be gummed without falling apart and causing choking (whole carrots or parsnips are good for this). Recently, one parent described how he gave his teething daughter the round, marrow filled bones from cooked ribeye steaks. He would cook the steaks, chill the bone overnight, then put her in her bib and let her gnaw on the bone. "Hey, who wants to let their kids eat plastic when you can give them beef?" he said. "She loved it!"

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I alternate tylenol and motrin (generic), and following doing instructions should cause no overdose problems. Organ damage won't occur with standard dosing in healthy people.

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