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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Pain relief medicines for children & teenagers

Whakaoranga mamae mō ngā tamariki me rangatahi

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Tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) under 16 years old shouldn't 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.

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

Tamariki and rangatahi should take the correct dose for their weight until they're 16 years old or until the dose for their weight reaches the adult dose. If you aren't sure what the correct dose is, check with your general practice team or pharmacist.

If your tamaiti (child) is in pain despite taking pain relieving medicines at home, you can take them to see their general practice team or an after-hours clinic or call Healthline on 0800-611-116 for advice.


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

Your tamaiti 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.

The recommended dose of paracetamol for your tamaiti is based on their weight not their age. Ask your pharmacist for help in calculating the correct dose or you can weigh your tamaiti and use this calculator to work out the correct dose.

If they take more than the recommended dose for their weight, it can be dangerous and 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 aren't sure, ask your general practice team or pharmacist.

Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)

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

Tamariki can take ibuprofen up to three times a day and should take it with food. Your tamaiti shouldn't use ibuprofen if they have heart or kidney disease or stomach ulcers.

The dose of ibuprofen is based on a child’s weight. Weigh your tamaiti and use this calculator to calculate the correct dose.

Opioid pain relievers

Codeine, morphine, oxycodone and tramadol are strong pain relievers used for severe pain. For example, after surgery or a serious injury. As with other pain relief medicines, the dose your tamaiti should take depends on their weight.

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

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

Medicine safety

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

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2023.


See also:

Chronic pain in children & teens

Drug overdose

Giving medicines to children

Safe use, storage, & disposal of medicines

Page reference: 370909

Review key: HIPRF-370907