Naproxen is available on prescription as tablets or as a liquid that you drink. You can buy it without a prescription from a pharmacy for period pain.
Naproxen can only be taken by children when it's prescribed for them.
- Take naproxen tablets with or just after a meal or snack.
- Take the lowest dose of naproxen for the shortest time to control your symptoms.
- The most common side effects of naproxen are confusion, headache, ringing in the ears, changes in vision, tiredness, drowsiness, dizziness and rashes.
- Naproxen is also called by the brand names Naprosyn or Stirlescent. Naproxen tablets you buy to treat period pain are called Feminax Ultra.
Who can and can't take naproxen
Naproxen can be taken by adults.
It can also be taken under medical supervision by children to treat:
- muscle and bone disorders for babies from 1 month
- diseases of the joints for children from 2 years
- period pain - for girls of any age
Naproxen isn't suitable for certain people. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to naproxen or any other medicines in the past
- are allergic to aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines (like ibuprofen), or if you've developed signs of asthma (wheezing), runny nose, swelling of the skin (angioedema), or a skin rash
- have or have had stomach ulcers, bleeding in the stomach or intestines, or a hole in your stomach
- have high blood pressure
- have severe liver, kidney, or heart failure
- have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- have lupus
- have a blood clotting disorder
- are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
How and when to take it
Always take your naproxen tablets with or just after a meal so you don't get an upset stomach.
As a general rule in adults, the dose to treat:
- diseases of joints is 500mg to 1000mg a day in 1 or 2 doses
- muscle, bone disorders and painful periods is 500mg at first, then 250mg every 6 to 8 hours as required
- attacks of gout is 750mg, then 250mg every 8 hours until the attack has passed
Doses are usually lower for elderly people and people with heart, liver or kidney problems.
The doctor will use your child's weight to work out the right dose.
If you get naproxen on prescription, the dose depends on the reason why you're taking it, your age, how well your liver and kidneys work, and how well it helps your symptoms.
If you buy naproxen from a pharmacy for painful menstrual periods:
- on the first day - take 2 tablets when the pain starts, then after 6 to 8 hours one more tablet that day if you need to
- on the second and following days - take one tablet every 6 to 8 hours if needed
Do not take more than 3 tablets in 24 hours.
How to take it
Naproxen on prescription comes as 2 different tablets - effervescent and gastro-resistant tablets.
Effervescent tablets are dissolved in water before you take them.
Gastro-resistant tablets have a coating to protect them from being broken down by the acid in your stomach. Instead, the medicine is released further down the gut in your intestine.
If you take gastro-resistant tablets, swallow them whole with or after food. Don't crush or chew them.
If you take effervescent tablets, dissolve 1 to 2 tablets in a glass (150ml) of water and drink.
Doses of 3 tablets should be dissolved in 300ml. To make sure there is no medicine left, rinse the empty glass with a small amount of water and drink it. Take with or after food.
What if I forget to take it?
Take your forgotten dose as soon as you remember, unless it's nearly time for your next dose. Don't take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.
If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.
What if I take too much?
If you take too many naproxen tablets by accident, you're more likely to get some of the common side effects. Contact your doctor straight away.
Like all medicines, naproxen can cause side effects although not everyone gets them.
Common side effects
Common side effects of naproxen happen in more than 1 in 100 people and include:
- ringing in the ears
- changes in vision
- tiredness and feeling sleepy
Less common side effects of naproxen happen in more than 1 in 1,000 people. They include:
- irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- abnormal dreams
- difficulty concentrating
- sensitivity of the skin to light (may cause blistering)
- difficulty sleeping
Rarely, naproxen can cause some side effects that happen in less than 1 in 1000 people:
- hair loss
- problems with hearing
- inflammation of blood vessels - causing fever, swelling, and generally not feeling well
- asthma getting worse
- muscle weakness and pain
- ulcers on the inner cheeks, gums and tongue
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don't go away.
Serious side effects
Tell your doctor straight away if you have:
- severe indigestion, heartburn, pains in your stomach, feeling sick or vomiting or diarrhoea - these can be signs of an ulcer or inflammation in the stomach or gut
- vomiting blood or dark particles that look like coffee grounds, blood in your poo, or black, tarry-looking poo these could be signs of bleeding and perforation of the stomach or gut
- frequent sore throat, nose bleeds, and infections these can be signs of abnormalities in your blood cells, known as agranulocytosis
- fainting, chest pain, or breathlessness - these can be signs of anaemia
- fever, feeling sick or vomiting, confusion, headache, neck stiffness and sensitivity to light - these can be signs of aseptic meningitis
- a severe skin rash with flushing, blisters or ulcers - these can be signs of Stevens-Johnson syndrome)
- blood in your pee, a decrease in how much pee is passed, feeling sick or vomiting - these can be signs of kidney damage or infection
- yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes - these can be signs of jaundice or inflammation of the liver
- irregular, slow heartbeats caused by high levels of potassium in the blood
- fever, stomach pain and vomiting - these can be signs of inflammation of the pancreas
You can read more about some of these side effects in our common questions.
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, it’s possible to have a serious allergic reaction to naproxen.
A serious allergic reaction is an emergency. Contact a doctor straight away if you think you or someone around you is having a serious allergic reaction.
The warning signs of a serious allergic reaction are:
- getting a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
- tightness in the chest or throat
- having trouble breathing or talking
- swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat
These are not all the side effects of naproxen. For a full list see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.
How to cope with side effects
What to do about:
- headache - make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. Don’t drink too much alcohol. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a painkiller. Headaches should usually go away after the first week of taking naproxen. Talk to your doctor if they last longer than a week or are severe.
- feeling sleepy, tired or dizzy - as your body gets used to naproxen, these side effects should wear off.
- changes in vision - don't drive for a week.
- dizziness - if naproxen makes you feel dizzy, stop what you’re doing and sit or lie down until you feel better.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Naproxen isn't normally recommended in pregnancy - especially if you're 30 or more weeks - unless it's prescribed by a doctor. This is because there might be a link between taking naproxen in pregnancy and some birth defects, in particular damage to the baby's heart and blood vessels.
There may also be a link between taking naproxen in early pregnancy and miscarriage.
Talk to your doctor about the benefits and possible harms of taking naproxen. It will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are and the reason you need to take the medicine. There may be other treatments that are safer for you.
Paracetamol is usually recommended as the first choice of painkiller for pregnant women.
Naproxen and breastfeeding
Naproxen isn't usually recommended during breastfeeding. Other anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, are safer.
However, if your baby is premature, had a low birth weight, or has an underlying medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking any painkillers.
Tell your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you're breastfeeding.
Cautions with other medicines
There are some medicines that interfere with the way naproxen works. Tell your doctor if you're taking:
- other anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- medicines that thin the blood, such as warfarin or rivaroxaban
- steroids, such as prednisolone
- water tablets, such as furosemide
- medicines used to treat heart problems and high blood pressure
- antidepressants, such as citalopram
- medicine used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, such as methotrexate
Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
How does naproxen work?
When will I feel better?
How long will I take naproxen for?
Can I take naproxen for a long time?
Are there other painkillers I can try?
Why do I need to be careful of stomach ulcers?
Can naproxen cause heart failure?
Does naproxen cause kidney failure?
Does naproxen cause an irregular heartbeat?
Does naproxen cause hearing loss?
Will it affect my fertility?
Will it affect my contraception?
Can I drink alcohol with it?