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2023 Nov

Children's Tylenol or Motrin?

Find out why the answer is not a simple one.

If your son has a fever or your daughter fell and scraped her knee, you may wonder, “Which is better, Children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Children’s Motrin (ibuprofen)?” The answer is unfortunately, not a simple one. It depends upon the age of your child and why you need to medicate him or her.

How often can I give it?

Children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) is available for infants two months and older. It can be given every four hours as needed for pain or fever. Children’s Motrin (ibuprofen) is available for infants six months and older. It can be given every six to eight hours for pain or fever.

How do I dose it?

Medications should be dosed by weight rather than age due to the fact that children’s weight by age varies considerably. To find your child’s weight, you can step on a scale without them, then pick them up and reweigh yourself while holding the child. The difference in the two weights is the child’s weight. When dosing medication, always use a syringe or measuring device provided. Using a household teaspoon is not as accurate as the measuring devices provided with the medication.

Can I alternate between the two?

Some parents ask if they should alternate Children’s Tylenol with Children’s Motrin. I recommend choosing either one or the other. It can be confusing for parents to alternate medication. You may forget which medication was given last. Also, by alternating the two medications, there is an increased risk of either over-dosing or inappropriately dosing your child. No evidence supports that alternating medication works better.

However, if you choose to alternate between the two, be sure to wait for the appropriate amount of time between the two. This means that if you have dosed Children’s Tylenol, wait four hours before dosing Children’s Motrin. After dosing Children’s Motrin, wait six to eight hours before dosing Children’s Tylenol. Keep a written journal of what medication was given last, how much was given, and when, just to be safe.

Can I use baby aspirin?

Aspirin (salicylic acid) is NOT recommended for children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition which is linked to aspirin use. Even “baby” aspirin is no longer routinely recommended for infants or children due to this risk.

Which is better for fever?

To bring down fever, if your child is over 6 months, you can choose either Children’s Tylenol or Children’s Motrin. Always give the appropriate dose for their weight in order to get the intended effect. Under-dosing your child will not provide an effective response to the fever. Children’s Tylenol has the advantage of not causing stomach upset (which Children’s Motrin may cause) but may cause serious liver toxicity if overdosed (so be sure to dose it appropriately). Children’s Motrin has the advantage of lasting a bit longer and needing to be dosed less frequently.

If you have a child who fights taking medication, dosing less often with Children’s Motrin may be important. As a parent, I was frustrated if the fever returned and I was unable to give any more medication for that full six hours, so I often turned to Children’s Tylenol for fever. If your child is vomiting or nauseous, Children’s Tylenol is easier on the stomach than Children’s Motrin.

Which is better for muscle aches?

For the active child’s sport-related muscle aches and pains, Children’s Motrin wins as it has a better anti-inflammatory response than Children’s Tylenol. Remember, your child must be over six months to use Children’s Motrin. Give it with food to decrease the risk of an upset stomach.

Which is best overall?

Let’s be real. Sometimes the best medication is the one that you have available in the cupboard. Sometimes a child will determine which medication he will take based on the taste or consistency. Some kids just prefer one over the other, and the best medication may be the medication that you can get them to take. Some kids prefer liquid medication, and others prefer the chewable. Be sure to check the expiration date on the bottle. Of course, always check with your pediatric healthcare provider before giving your child any medication.

For more information, visit:

Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP

Dr. Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner as well as core faculty member at Walden University. Her book, Raising Today’s Baby: Second Edition, is available on


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