Ibuprofen: Do you know your limits?

What do sunlight, alcohol, and ibuprofen have in common? In small doses, they can be helpful, though some can take none at all; in large doses or taken for too long, they can be lethal.

The importance of ibuprofen

Just as sunlight strengthens bones and soothes certain skin conditions, whilst wine may be good for the heart, ibuprofen’s impact on period pain, fever and flu, swelling and stiffness, headache and backache, and bone pain in cancer is often impressive.

Broadly speaking, ibuprofen works to reduce inflammation, fever and pain by lowering levels of hormone-like agents known as prostaglandins.

Released by nearly every tissue in the body, prostaglandins have potent positive effects, helping in healing, safeguarding the stomach from acid attack and causing contractions in labour. They can be pesky though: fever results when they reset your body’s thermostat; their ability to sensitize nerves and widen blood vessels triggers pain and inflammation.

When ibuprofen is inadvisable

Some people are allergic to sunlight, breaking out in blisters when exposed; others are alcohol intolerant, as a result of a genetic condition. For them, abstinence is advised. One man’s meat is another man’s poison when it comes to ibuprofen too.

Ibuprofen is inappropriate for those who are allergic to aspirin (since it belongs to the same family of drugs). It should also be avoided if you’ve got liver, kidney or heart problems, are pregnant or have had a stomach ulcer or stroke.

For those who do take ibuprofen, it’s safest to take the smallest possible dose for the shortest possible time to avoid unwanted side effects such as stomach ulcers and bleeds, nausea and constipation.