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HealthInfo Canterbury

Pain relief for children & teenagers

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When used as directed, paracetamol and ibuprofen are effective pain relievers for children and teenagers. You can buy both from a pharmacy or supermarket, or you can get them on prescription from your doctor.

Children and teenagers should take the correct dose for their weight until they are 16 years old, or until the dose for their weight reaches the adult dose. If you are not sure what the correct dose is, check with your doctor or pharmacist.


Paracetamol is available either as a liquid or tablets. This is a good and safe option for pain relief in children.

Your child can take paracetamol every four to six hours, but no more than four doses in 24 hours. They can take it with or without food. But if they take more than the recommended dose for their weight it can cause liver failure.

Two different strengths of paracetamol liquid are available in New Zealand. Make sure you give the correct dose for the strength of the medicine. If you are not sure, ask a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)

Ibuprofen is one of a group of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (usually called NSAIDs). It is the most commonly used anti-inflammatory medicine given to children. It comes as either a liquid or as tablets.

Ibuprofen is a useful pain relief medicine for injuries such as muscle strains or sprains, or where there is inflammation. Your child should take the right amount for their weight.

Children can take ibuprofen up to three times a day, and should take it with food. Your child should not use ibuprofen if they have heart or kidney disease or stomach ulcers.

If your child is in pain despite taking pain relieving medicines at home you should take them to see their GP or an after-hours GP.


Children and teenagers under 16 years old should not take aspirin, unless specifically prescribed by their doctor to treat a condition called Kawasaki disease, or to prevent blood clots after heart surgery. Aspirin can cause swelling in children's brains and livers – this is called Reye syndrome.

Opioid pain relievers

Codeine, morphine, oxycodone, and tramadol are strong pain relievers, used for more severe pain, for example after surgery or a serious injury. As with other pain relief medicine, the dose your child takes will depend on their weight.

All opioids have many possible side effects, such as constipation, drowsiness, and nausea. If you are concerned about any side effects, talk to your child's doctor.

If your child has been prescribed an opioid pain reliever they will need to see a doctor regularly, to monitor how well the medication is working and keep track of any problems.

Medicine safety

Keep all medicines out of reach of children. If you suspect poisoning, call 0800 POISON (0800‑764‑766)

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2019.


See also:

Drug overdose

Medicines for children

Chronic pain in children & teens

Safe use, storage, & disposal of medicines

Page reference: 370909

Review key: HIPRF-370907