Of all the over-the-counter medications, ibuprofen is my favorite. Unlike acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), it is an anti-inflammatory and not only reduces pain, but redness and swelling as well.
With summer in full swing, ibuprofen should be your go-to remedy for a sunburn. However, most patients I see are not aware of just how beneficial ibuprofen is for a burn, and will use aloe or Solarcaine instead. These products will provide some pain relief, but they don't actually do anything to promote healing. the healing cause pain. On the other hand, ibuprofen will reduce both the swelling and redness from the burn. For optimal relief, I tell patients to combine a standard dose ibuprofen with a topical analgesic of their choice.
Ibuprofen is a wonderful medication, but you can have too much of a good thing. The directions on the label will read to take two tablets (400mg) every six hours for a maximum daily intake of 1200mg. No matter which brand you purchase, all ibuprofen tablets are the same strength, 200mg. If you were to take three tablets that would total 600mg, and if you took four tablets that would be 800mg. Prescription ibuprofen uses the same exact ingredient and is available as one tablet in three different strengths: 400mg, 600mg, and 800mg. The only difference between over-the-counter ibuprofen and prescription ibuprofen is that you have to take two to four tablets at each dose instead of just one prescription tablet. Assuming you have no complications or contraindications, the absolute maximum amount of milligrams per day you can take is 1200mg (6 tablets) of over-the-counter ibuprofen and 3200mg (4 tablets of 800mg strength) of prescription ibuprofen.
Long-term use of ibuprofen is generally not recommended. It can tear away at the lining of your stomach potentially causing pain, acid reflux, ulcer formation, and dark stools (indication of internal bleeding). Therefore, be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist about how long you should take ibuprofen.