The great debate: Tylenol vs. Motrin


If you are like most new moms out there (or any moms for that matter) I am sure you have struggled with the question “Do I give Motrin or Tylenol?” let me start off by explaining the differences between the two.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is used to reduce fever and relieve pain. You can give Tylenol for issues such as headaches, bruises, toothaches, sunburn and fever. It works directly with the nerves and receptors in the brain to dull pain, making Tylenol a more effective drug for headaches than Motrin. Tylenol takes 45-60 minutes to work and lasts for four hours with one dose. The benefit of Tylenol over Motrin is it’s easier on the digestive tract and won’t cause a stomach ache in your child.

Motrin or Advil (Ibuprofen) works on pain and inflammation. It will reduce high fevers, diminish pain and decrease inflammation. This is an inflammatory drug that reduces swelling at the point of injury, making it a more effective pain reliever for body injuries where swelling is a factor in instances such as teething, earaches, sunburn and shots. It was only approved for children 6 months and older but in 2001 it received a safety and effective approval for infants 2 months and older. I would recommend talking to your doctor about it because most doctors still suggest waiting until 6 months because it can mask your baby’s symptoms which are the only way we can tell how sick an infant really is. Motrin takes 30 minutes to be effective and last about 6 hours.

The important thing to know is while you want to keep your child comfortable don’t over medicate them. When your child is teething, in pain or has a fever administer the appropriate medicine but don’t give it out as candy. Over medication of Motrin can thin the blood and cause stomach irritability and over medication of Tylenol can decrease liver function. For a stubborn high fever, a safe treatment is to alternate between Motrin and Tylenol.

For either of these medications the store generics have exactly the same ingredients and costs up to 50% less. Lately there have been recalls from both Tylenol and Motrin so put your mind at ease that the generic is a safe alternative to the brand names.

(Scottsdale Moms Blog is a site for moms by moms. The information presented here gives general advice on parenting and health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs… i.e. use your discretion… you know your child better than anyone.)


Denise Gusich grew up in the corn fields of Indiana and attended Purdue University where she met her husband and biggest supporter, John. Shortly after moving to Arizona they were blessed with their daughter Madison (August 2008). Denise is currently in nursing school with graduation around the corner in May. She is a big proponent of a mixture of eastern and western medicine to heal the body holistically.


  1. Thanks for posting what so many moms don’t know! I, thankfully, in my undergrad did a huge presentation on these two drugs for my final in Enzymology so I’ve had this little mommy benefit from the beginning. However, I often have friends who ask me questions on what you have answered above! It still amazes me that the science world didn’t know how these two drugs actually worked until several years ago even though they have been in use since the 1950’s!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here