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If your child is younger than 2 years old and you want to give him acetaminophen or ibuprofen, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it's a good idea to call your child's doctor first. That doesn't mean you have to bring your baby to see the doctor every time he runs a low-grade fever or bumps his head, but you should at least phone the office and talk to the doctor or nurse on call.
It's particularly dangerous to give pain medication to a child younger than 3 months without checking with the doctor. Pain relievers can mask fever and other symptoms of infection or disease, making it harder for doctors to diagnose serious illnesses quickly. Doctors also warn against giving ibuprofen to children younger than 6 months.
Figuring out the right dose of pain reliever for children 6 months to 2 years can be tricky. The labels on most children's brands of medicine, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, say "check with a physician" for children in this age range. It's a good idea to ask your child's doctor for the appropriate dose for your child's age and weight at each doctor visit -- because infants grow so quickly, the dose may change with each well-baby appointment.
It's so important to know the right dose and how often to give it. Acetaminophen, in particular, is toxic to the liver in large doses.
For more details and accurate dosage information for children of all ages, check our acetaminophen and ibuprofen dosage charts. Dose is determined by weight, so you must know how much your child weighs to find the correct dose on these charts.