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The main ingredient in Advil is Ibuprofen which is part of the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These give pain relief, reduce inflammation (suppressing redness of the skin and swelling of a particular area of the body) and can also bring down and eliminate a fever. More information

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Advil is the brand name for Ibuprofen, which is the active ingredient in this medicine. It is a common pain reliever that is used for the relief of mild to moderate pain, inflammation and fever. Advil works by blocking the natural chemicals the body produces that cause pain if we are injured or unwell. It is available over the counter without a prescription and can be purchased in different strengths. Adults and children over 12 can take Advil. 

What is Advil? 

The main ingredient in Advil is Ibuprofen which is part of the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These give pain relief, reduce inflammation (suppressing redness of the skin and swelling of a particular area of the body) and can also bring down and eliminate a fever. NSAIDs work by blocking prostaglandins which occur naturally in the body. These are chemicals that are similar to hormones. They are lipids which cause pain and swelling. Prostaglandins are produced by two special enzymes: Cox-1 and Cox-2. When the body is functioning correctly only Cox-1 enzymes are produced. But if something happens to it, such as an illness or injury, then Cox-2 enzymes occur which cause a person to feel pain. 

When inflammation occurs the body’s white blood cells release certain chemicals which can cause redness, swelling and pain. Inflammation is a way of the body protecting itself against infection or injury.  The inflammation and pain the body produces is its way of fighting the illness or injury and trying to heal the source of the problem.  Advil also treats pain by blocking the electrical signals the nerves send to the brain when a part of the body is injured or experiences pain. Advil can assist and speed up the healing process and it also reduces the pain by successfully blocking the prostaglandins (the chemicals which cause the pain and swelling). 

A fever occurs when the body's temperature rises above 37.5 degrees Celsius. This can occur on its own or accompany other illnesses, such as the flu. The body’s release of prostaglandins causes the body temperature to rise which results in a fever. Advil can help reduce a fever by blocking the prostaglandins. Advil comes in different forms including soft-coated liquid capsules and effervescent tablets which are dissolved in water. Taking the liquid form of this medicine means it is absorbed into the body faster than standard tablets and therefore gets to work faster – relieving symptoms and giving pain relief. A common ingredient found in many over-the-counter pain-relieving medications is acetaminophen, which can cause serious liver damage if taken in excess of the recommended dose. Advil does not contain acetaminophen. 

When is Advil used? 

Advil is used for pain relief, to reduce inflammation and also to reduce fever. It is commonly used to treat: 

  • Headaches and migraines 
  • Backache 
  • Toothache and dental surgery pain 
  • Menstrual pain such as stomach cramps and symptoms such as heavy bleeding 
  • Muscle aches and bone and joint pain 
  • Pain caused by arthritis, gout, arthrosis other rheumatic disorders 
  • Sprains and strains (often caused by sports injuries) 
  • Swelling of limbs or joints 
  • The aches and pains of common colds and flu (influenza) (note: Advil will not cure a cold or flu as these are caused by viruses. However, it can be used to relieve the symptoms) 
  • Fever: Advil can help reduce fever along with drinking plenty of liquids.  

How do you use Advil? 

Advil comes in different forms: 

  • Liquid capsules 
  • Effervescent tablets 

Both should be taken with plenty of water. The capsules containing liquid are coated in gel, which makes them easy to swallow, and it is advisable to take them with a drink of water. The effervescent tablets must be dissolved in half a glass of water, stirred to ensure the mix is complete and drunk immediately. The Advil will begin to work fairly quickly to alleviate pain relief and fever. However, relief from inflammation can take longer, sometimes for several weeks. It is advisable to speak to a pharmacist about how long you should take Advil for if you wish to take it for inflammation. 

It is best to take Advil on an empty stomach for the most successful results. However, if you suffer from a sensitive stomach you can take Advil during or after a meal. Always read the package leaflet carefully before taking Advil to ensure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients, to be aware of the side effects that may occur and to understand any interactions that may occur with other medicines you may be taking. If symptoms of pain and fever do not begin to subside soon (within a few hours) after taking Advil you should stop taking it and consult a doctor. This also applies to symptoms of inflammation if they do not begin to disappear within three weeks of taking Advil. 

What dosages are there? 

The usual recommended dose for adults and children over 12 years of age is: one 200 mg or 400 mg dose depending on the intensity of the symptoms every 4-6 hours. This applies to both the gel capsules and the effervescent tablets. It is advisable to take the effective lowest dosage for your symptoms for the shortest time possible. The maximum daily dose is 1,200 mg per day (6 x 200 mg tablets) (split into 3 or 4 doses). Do not exceed this dose in a 24-hour period. 

What are the side effects of Advil? 

As with all medicines, Advil may cause side effects. However, most people do not experience any side effects. The most common side effects to be aware of are: 

  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness or feeling tired 
  • Stomach problems (feeling sick, stomachache or indigestion) 
  • Heartburn 

If you find you have stomach problems when taking Advil try taking it with food or a glass of milk to help relieve the discomfort. You are more likely to experience side effects of Advil if you take it for long periods of time, such as to treat arthritis, as opposed to taking it occasionally for headaches or muscular pain. If you are concerned about side effects when taking Advil you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist. 

Please consult the package leaflet for a list of the more uncommon side effects of Advil. 

When shouldn’t you use Advil? 

Before taking Advil you should check with the pharmacist or a doctor that it is suitable for you. Not everyone should take Advil. If you suffer from (or have experienced in the past) any of the following you should not take Advil: 

  • An allergy or hypersensitivity to Ibuprofen or other NSAIDs 
  • Any allergies to any of Advil’s ingredients (refer to the package leaflet) 
  • Stomach ulcers or stomach inflammation 
  • Heart problems (including having had a stroke) 
  • Kidney or liver disease 
  • A blood disease or have had a brain haemorrhage 

It is not advisable to take Advil for long periods of time without the advice of a doctor. If you are using Advil to treat a long-term condition, such as arthritis, your doctor may wish to do a blood test periodically to ensure it is not affecting other parts of your body such as your liver or kidneys. This is particularly relevant for people aged over 60 years of age. You should not take Advil if you are pregnant. You may take it when breastfeeding on the advice of a doctor. Care should be taken when driving or operating machinery after taking Advil as it can cause dizziness. It is advisable not to drink alcohol or to reduce your alcohol consumption when taking Advil as it can cause stomach irritation. You should not take Advil with any other NSAIDs as this can increase the risk of the side effects you may experience. 

Does Advil interact with other medication? 

Advil can interact with other medicines including blood pressure reduction medication and anticoagulants. It is essential you inform your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any other medication that may interact with Advil. This includes herbal medicines as these can react with Advil, in particular, ginkgo biloba, which is used for memory problems. 

NSAIDs can also interact with several other medicines including: 

  • Beta-blockers (used for the treatment of high blood pressure) 
  • Antidepressants (used to treat depression and anxiety) 
  • Diuretics (used to reduce the amount of liquid in the body sometimes caused by swelling) 

If you suffer from asthma you should consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking Advil. This is because the active ingredient Ibuprofen can cause or worsen asthma symptoms or cause an inflammation of the inside of the nose. If you have asthma and use a peak flow meter you can monitor your readings while taking Advil to see if they change. 

Where can you buy Advil? 

You can buy Advil over the counter without a prescription. 

Can  I get Advil without a prescription? 

Yes, you can buy Advil without a prescription over the counter. However, if you have any concerns regarding side effects, interactions with medications you are taking or any other questions about Advil you should consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking Advil. 




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Seymour, T. (2017, September 11). Asthma and ibruprofen: What are the effects? Retrieved 24 June, 2019 from  

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Assessed by:

Dr Imran Malik, General practitioner
Registration number: GMC: 4741365

Dr Imran Malik studied undergraduate medicine at King's College University in Central London and clinical studies at the prestigious King's College Hospital. He graduated with a MBBS degree in 2000 and went on to gain postgraduate memberships with the Royal Society of Medicine and also General Practice in 2006.