Both paracetamol and ibruprofen can help with flu-like symptoms and help to bring a fever down. They're often used interchangeably by parents when it comes to treating any of the many aches and pains of childhood, from teething issues to post-vaccination fever, to the many cold and flu sicknesses that are all part of growing up and building a healthy immune system.

But stories about Coronavirus being "aggravated" by ibuprofen has brought this pharmaceutical duo to the fore because, although parents might be using the medications interchangeably, it turns out that ibuprofen (also known as Brufen, Advil, Motren and Nurofen)  and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are never advised as the first port of call when it comes to treating childhood ailments.

"Generally as paediatricians we always prefer paracetamol for the treatment of fever or pain in the case of an infection or minor ailments like post-vaccination fever," says paediatrician at Medcare Women and Children's Hospital Dubai, Dr Reham Gamaleldine. "In this era of Covid-19 we still insist on the same advice, which is that if paracetamol can be effective with the proper dose and frequency in controlling the symptom, it is definitely more advisable to use in paediatric cases instead of ibuprofen."

The World Health Organisation (Who), along with the UK's NHS and many other health bodies, is currently officially advising against self-medicating with ibuprofen to treat Covid symptoms, following research that suggests such anti-inflammatories could worsen the effect of the virus. It stands to reason then that parents should also avoid medicating their children with it for any cough, cold or flu symptoms (mild versions of which have been linked to Covid-19, especially in children) unless they've been specifically told to by their child's doctor.

Dr Reham Gamaleldine, Medcare Women and Children's Hospital

"Ibuprofen is an anti inflammatory drugs that is used for pain and fever relief and in some cases to treat paediatric joint inflammations like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis," says Dr Reham. "Most parents know about it and start to use it after their child has turned six months, and in my experience there is the general perception that it is more effective than other fever-control medicine.

"But parents need to understand that ibuprofen has more side effects than paracetamol, so it's better to avoid if the symptoms of  your child can be effectively controlled by paracetamol alone."

Dr Reham recommends that parents use paracetamol first to treat their chid, and that ibuprofen is only used if the paracetamol is not working or not advised for some reason.

"Nowadays there are reports from virologists claiming that the use of ibuprofen might worsen the symptoms if they are related to Covid-19 or might make pneumonia more likely. However there is not enough research on this yet, since it is still so soon after the Covid-19 outbreak first started

"But we do already have research from before Covid-19 that suggests that in some cases of children with chest conditions like bronchial asthma, their asthma may be exacerbated by taking anti inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Several other studies have linked anti-inflammatory drugs to worsened pneumonia, plus there are some side effects linked to ibuprofen such as gastric upset.

"So as a general rule, it is advisable to use paracetamol for your child for fever or pain, and to use ibuprofen only if the paracetamol is not controlling the symptoms and when necessary after you have consulted with your doctor."

Read more:
Coronavirus advice for Pregnant and Breastfeeding mums in UAE

How to protect your child from a cough, cold or fever

The best way to take your baby's temperature

What to do when your baby or child has a fever