Tylenol vs Motrin for Children | A Parent Guide
This post is a definite passion of mine. With over 6 years of Pediatric Nursing under my belt, I have been asked countless times about when it’s appropriate to give Tylenol versus Motrin. I wanted to make a simple, easy to follow post for all parents concerned about Tylenol and Motrin and when to give to their children.
Let me start off this post by highlighting the key take-away points:
- It is most important to treat the child, NOT the symptoms. Only YOU know your child best. Just because they’re cranky and tired, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to give them medicine. Your child may respond well to homeopathic medicines, cool washcloths, warm compresses and other methods before resulting to Tylenol and Motrin.
- This is NOT to be a replacement for medical advice. Yes, I am a trained professional pediatric nurse. But I do not personally know your child. Only your pediatrician/doctor has that personal history/relationship with your child and knows their diagnoses, conditions, treatments the best (besides you).
- This post is meant to be a parent guide. Medicines are scary. You want to do what’s best for your child, and small errors can be harmful. I want to help relieve some of those fears and help equip you in the case you need to medicate your child with either of these medicines.
I’m a Type-A kind of person that responds well to quick visuals. So I made a quick chart highlighting some of the basics of Tylenol and Motrin. Now down to the nitty gritty.
The Names. I used the most common names for the medicines, but the AKAs are also different names for the SAME drug. It’s so important to make sure you check your labels and check, double check that you are not giving Tylenol + a medicine with acetaminophen or Motrin + a medicine containing ibuprofen. That would result in OVERDOSE.
The Dosing. Most on my questions come down to dosing. And this is where the medical professional part comes in and usually a degree. How much is safe for my child? Since every child is different, it is best to calculate by weight, not by age. For instance, my son was under the growth chart for many years. It wasn’t safe to calculate his dosing by age (as it says on most medicine labels). Weight is the MOST accurate way to ensure your child is getting the best dose. However, it is a 2 step process that can be tricky. I will try to make this as simple as possible.
- Child’s weight in pounds x the dosing in the chart above = # of milligrams they can have. For example, if your child weighs 10 lbs., then they could get up to 65 mg of Tylenol and up to 45 mg of Motrin, respectively.
- Answer of Step 1 (mg they can have) converted into milliliters (or liquid) they can have. This part is the tricky step. I’d love to tell you that all bottles are converted the same way, but that’s just not true. Every manufacturer does their dosing differently. But here’s the common formula: # of mg x 5 mL / # mg per 5 mL (or 1 teaspoon)
Back to Our Example: On the box/bottle of Children’s Motrin it says that there are 100 mg per 5 mL. So you take the 45 mg you calculated in step 1, multiple by 5 and then divide by 100 = 2.25 mL. So you give 2.25 mL of liquid. Please note, EVERY bottle of ibuprofen and Tylenol are NOT the same! You must must must check dosage!
Combining efforts. Can I give Tylenol and Motrin together, especially in the case of high fevers? This is my #2 most asked question. For most, the answer is YES. There are a few occasions and conditions where it is NOT appropriate to give these medicines together (only you and your doctor can determine that). But for a normal, healthy child over the age of 6 months, you most likely can. Why? Because these medicines work differently and are not the same kind of medicine (such as Tylenol an Robitussin are different).
Motrin you can give every 6 hours. Tylenol you can give every 4. In the case of high fevers, I recommend giving Motrin first. Motrin has a quicker onset of action (about 20-30 minutes). If there’s no change in about 2 hours, I recommend giving Tylenol. Keep track of the times you give each medicine. Even in the hospital, we had written down what times we give medicine so we can make sure we are giving accurate amounts without fear of overdose.
Also note that medicines can work well together with complimentary treatments such as warm baths, cool and warm compresses, homeopathic regimens. And let’s not forget snuggles! Remember, it is so important to treat your child first.
I hope you guys will use my parent guide to help you make informed choices about Tylenol and Motrin for your kids. I am happy to answer any questions and help you be as equipped as possible when it comes to safely giving your children Tylenol or Motrin when or if appropriate.
What are your best parenting tips for kids when they’re sick?