Which is best, paracetamol or ibuprofen?

Which is best - paracetamol or ibuprofen? Image: Derrick Coetzee (User:Dcoetzee), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most people have ibuprofen and paracetamol in their medicine cabinets, and although both are used as painkillers, they have different indications and side effects.


Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and has an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effect. This means that it can reduce pain, inflammation and fever.

There is some evidence that consuming ibuprofen frequently over time may increase cardiovascular risk, and people with cardiovascular disease should speak with their doctor before taking it. It should not be taken on an empty stomach and is generally not recommended for pregnant women.


Paracetamol does not reduce inflammation, but it does relieve pain and reduce fever. It is mainly used to alleviate flu symptoms, headaches, toothaches, back pain, etc.

Unlike ibuprofen, paracetamol does not cause gastric side effects, so it can be taken on an empty stomach. However, it is important not to exceed the maximum dose, even if the pain is very bad.

Can I alternate paracetamol with ibuprofen?

When in doubt regarding which painkiller to take, consult your doctor. Generally speaking, however, ibuprofen is best for inflammation and severe pain, and paracetamol should be enough when there is fever but no pain. 

It is best not to alternate between paracetamol and ibuprofen, as this may increase the risk of hypotension and kidney damage. Therefore, if you have a fever, it is best to choose one and take it as recommended. However, if the fever persists, you can alternate between ibuprofen and paracetamol. This is an emergency method that can never be prolonged for more than three days.

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Written by

Tamsin Brown

Originally from London, Tamsin is based in Malaga and is a local reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering Spanish and international news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]