How Long Does It Take For Ibuprofen To Kick In?

Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug available over the counter and via prescription (via WebMD). According to ClinCalc, doctors prescribe ibuprofen more than 20 million times in the average year. The drug comes in various forms, from tablets, liquid, capsules, and granules, per the National Health Service (NHS).

Ibuprofen works by inhibiting the production of cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 and COX-2. This helps to reduce aches, arthritis pain, fever, and inflammation (via Medical News Today). It also keeps damaged cells from making and releasing a chemical called prostaglandin, which alters your brain's response to pain, explains Johns Hopkins All Children's hospital.

Whether you've been prescribed this medicine or you've picked it up over the counter, you might wonder how long it takes for ibuprofen to start working. According to Healthline, various factors might influence how quickly the drug takes to work. This includes age, weight, overall health, and the dosage used. Here's what you should know.

How long does it take for ibuprofen to start working?

According to NHS, you should notice an improvement within 20 to 30 minutes of taking ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is at its highest levels in the bloodstream after one to two hours. However, the drug's onset of action may vary from one condition to another. For example, the drug might take longer to work when used to treat inflammation (via Healthline).

Once in your bloodstream, the effects of ibuprofen can last for a few hours. Some people will require stronger doses than others, depending on the condition being treated. Please consult your doctor before increasing your dose to ensure safe and effective use.

As a guide, 400 milligrams (mg) of ibuprofen is the recommended dose for every 4 to 6 hours when experiencing mild to severe pain or menstrual cramps (via the Mayo Clinic). People with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis may require higher doses, often between 1,200 milligrams (mg) and 3,200 mg daily, divided between three to four equal doses.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it's best to consult a healthcare provider about dosage before administering ibuprofen to children.

Potential side effects of ibuprofen

According to WebMD, common side effects of ibuprofen include nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, and drowsiness. It's important to consult with your doctor if these symptoms persist or worsen over time.

While ibuprofen doesn't tend to cause serious side effects, there's a chance it can increase your blood pressure beyond its normal range. Other rare but serious side effects include vomiting blood and stomach bleeding, which can lead to fecal discoloration (your poop can become black), according to the NHS. In addition, swollen ankles or urination difficulties are signs of poor kidney function. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a doctor.

Ibuprofen can also trigger an anaphylaxis allergic reaction in some people. Although rare, the NHS warns that this reaction is life-threatening and is usually accompanied by symptoms such as chest tightness, wheezing, rash, facial swelling, and breathing difficulties. Seek emergency medical care if you develop any of those symptoms, or if you experience slurred speech or weakness on one side of the body.

According to MedlinePlus, the use of ibuprofen, as an NSAID, can raise a person's risk of heart attacks or strokes. So it's essential to let your doctor know if you smoke or if you or anyone in your family has had heart problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, or diabetes.