Hesperian Health Guides

Information on Aspirin and Ibuprofen for Swollen Joints in People with Arthritis or Rheumatic Fever

Aspirin and ibuprofen are usually the best medicines for joint pain:

  • They not only help to control pain, but also reduce inflammation (swelling and damage to joint surfaces). Thus they helps stop destruction of the joints. Many other painkillers such as paracetamol do not do this.
  • Aspirin is not expensive. Ibuprofen is a little bit more expensive.

In order for aspirin to work well without causing problems:

  • Take the correct dose at the right times every day.
  • Keep taking the same amount of medicine even after the pain has lessened. This will control swelling and let the joints begin to heal.
A. Aspirin and ibuprofen can cause stomach-ache, chest pain (so-called ’heartburn’), or even make holes (ulcers) in the stomach. To avoid these problems:
  • Always take these medicines with food or a large glass of water.
  • If this does not prevent stomach pain, take the medicine not only with food and lots of water, but also with a spoonful of an antacid such as Maalox, or Gelusil.

Stop taking aspirin if:

  • stomach pain still occurs after following the above precautions
  • you start to vomit or shit blood, or if your shit looks like black tar (digested blood)
B. The dose of aspirin to reduce swelling is almost as much as the dose that can poison. An early sign of poisoning is ringing in the ears. If the ears begin to ring, stop taking aspirin until it stops. Then take it again, but in a slightly lower dose.
C. Keep aspirin out of the reach of children.
CAUTION! To prevent choking do not give medicine to a child while she is lying on her back, or if her head is pressed back. Always make sure her head is lifted forward.


The dosage given here is the anti-inflammatory dosage, which is double the normal dosage for reducing pain and lowering fever.


Aspirin for adults usually comes in 300 mg. or 500 mg. tablets. Low-dose aspirin usually comes in 81 mg. tablets. Be sure to figure out the dose correctly for the tablets you have. The aspirin dosage is 80 to

The aspirin dosage is 80 to 100 mg/kg/day in 4 to 6 divided doses. For example, a child weighing 25 kilos would take 2000 to 2500 mg each day, or 1 tablet of 500 mg 4 to 5 times a day (always with meals or lots of water). You can give up to 130 mg/ kg/day, divided in 5 to 6 doses, in acute cases.

When using 500 mg tablets, the doses are:

Adults: 2 to 3 tablets, 4 to 5 times a day
Children, 8 to 12 years: 1 tablet, 4 to 5 times a day
Children, 3 to 7 years: half a tablet, 4 to 5 times a day
Children, 1 to 2 years: one-quarter tablet, 4 to 5 times a day

Calculate the dose of aspirin for your child and write it down so you don't forget.

Ibuprofen usually comes in 200 mg tablets. The dose for a child over 7 kg, is 20 to 40 mg of ibuprofen for each kg of body weight in divided doses 3 to 4 times a day.

For example, a child weighing 30 kilos could take 600 to 1200 mg each day, or 1 to 2 tablets of 200 mg 3 times a day (always with meals or lots of water).

Calculate the dose of ibuprofen for your child and write it down so you don't forget.

If there are no swollen joints, use acetaminophen (tylenol, paracetamol) just for pain. Neither aspirin nor ibuprofen should be given to children under 1 year old. For other medicines for pain, see the Green Pages in Where There Is No Doctor.

This page was updated:21 Nov 2019