How to Alternate Advil and Tylenol for a Child's Fever
Fevers, while not typically dangerous in their own right, can make children uncomfortable. If you have a child with a fever -- whether it's because of an illness or is a normal response to vaccination -- you may wish to give antipyretic, or fever-reducing, medication. Both Advil, which is a brand of ibuprofen, and Tylenol, which is a brand of acetaminophen, can help to reduce fevers on their own. You can also alternate them for a more effective fever-reducing regimen.
Talk to your child's pediatrician. Before you give your child fever-reducing medication, you should contact her doctor to discuss the specifics of your situation. Fevers aren't generally dangerous, and if your child is ill, the fever may actually help her immune system destroy the invading organisms. If your child has a fever as a result of vaccination, you may not want to give antipyretic medication because it may suppress the immune response, rendering the vaccinations less effective. According to a 2003 article in "Pediatric Nursing" by Sheri Carson, there isn't sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that treating a child's fever does much good. However, reducing a fever can make a child more comfortable, and it can also decrease insensible fluid losses from evaporation, which can lead to dehydration.
A 5 Year Old With a Fever & No Other Symptoms
Give your child a dose of either Advil or Tylenol; do not give both medications at once. Follow your pediatrician's recommendations regarding dosing your child, but generally speaking, dosage is weight-dependent. A 2006 article by Dr. Michael Sarrell and colleagues in the scientific journal "Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine" suggests a dose of 12.5 mg of acetaminophen per kg of body weight, or 5.7 mg per pound 2. The researchers used 5 mg of ibuprofen per kg of body weight, or 2.7 mg per pound.
Wait four hours, then give the appropriate dose by body weight of whichever medication you didn't give the first time. In other words, if you started with a weight-dependent dose of Tylenol or its generic, acetaminophen, wait four hours and then give Advil or the generic ibuprofen. If you started with Advil, give Tylenol four hours later. After another four hours, you can give a second dose of the first medication, and four hours later, you'll give a second dose of the second medication. You can continue in this manner for as long as your pediatrician recommends. Sarrell and colleagues found that alternating the medications was more effective in controlling fever than giving either medication alone.
Read the label on your child's medication carefully; particularly with regard to liquid medications. Some are more concentrated than others, and you'll need to know how much medication is in a given volume of liquid to dose correctly.
A 5 Year Old With a Fever & No Other Symptoms
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- "Pediatric Nursing"; Alternating Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen in the Febrile Child: Examination of the Evidence Regarding Efficacy and Safety; Sheri Carson; 2003
- "Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine"; Antipyretic Treatment in Young Children With Fever; Michael Sarrell et al; 2006
- "Reducing Fever in Children: Safe Use of Acetaminophen". Consumer Update 21 Jul 11. US Food and Drug Administration. US Department of Health and Human Services. 29 May 15.
- Arpa, MSN, RN Marie. "Does Acetaminophen in Comparison to Ibuprofen Effectively Reduce Fevers in Children Younger Than 18 Years of Age?" Pediatr Nurs. 2010;36(4):219-220. MedScape Multispecialty. 29 May 15.
- Perrott DA1, Piira T, Goodenough B, Champion GD. "Efficacy and safety of acetaminophen vs ibuprofen for treating children's pain or fever: a meta-analysis". Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004 Jun;158(6):521-6. 29 May 15.
Kirstin Hendrickson is a writer, teacher, coach, athlete and author of the textbook "Chemistry In The World." She's been teaching and writing about health, wellness and nutrition for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Science in zoology, a Bachelor of Science in psychology, a Master of Science in chemistry and a doctoral degree in bioorganic chemistry.