How to Use Acetaminophen Safely


The period during cold, cough, and flu season is an excellent opportunity to review the dangers of acetaminophen, the painkiller and fever reducer included in Tylenol and many other over-the-counter drugs. Despite the fact that acetaminophen is safely consumed in billions of doses each year, thousands of patients visit the emergency room each year, and accidental overdoses still result in fatalities. Acetaminophen is present in more than 600 products, and accidentally combining them can push you over the limit.

Basics of Safe Acetaminophen Dose

Acetaminophen, like aspirin and the other commonly used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, generics), and naproxen, reduces pain and fever but does not reduce inflammation (Aleve, generics). Acetaminophen does not irritate the stomach or intestinal walls, in contrast to NSAIDs. That implies that a person can take acetaminophen but cannot tolerate NSAIDs. It’s a crucial medication for reducing chronic pain in older folks.

The drawback is that, in comparison to ibuprofen and naproxen, acetaminophen has a smaller window of safety. NSAIDs can also make you sick, but an unsafe overdose requires a higher dose. Acetaminophen overdose can harm the liver and occasionally result in a liver transplant or even death.

In a regular dose, the body metabolizes the majority of acetaminophen and excretes it in the urine. Nonetheless, a portion of the medicine gets transformed into a byproduct that is harmful to the liver. It is possible for the body to get overloaded with toxins if you ingest too much—all at once or gradually over a few days.

The maximum daily intake is typically limited to 4,000 milligrams (mg) from all sources for the average healthy adult. Nonetheless, some people may still have liver toxicity at doses that are close to the 4,000 mg daily adult limit. In general, it’s best to take a little more than what you need each day and avoid going over 3,000 mg, especially if you use it frequently.

How to Keep Everything Within Purpose

Go to your doctor or pharmacist if you ever have any questions about how much acetaminophen you can tolerate given your age, size, and overall health. Here are some general safety measures to prevent an unintentional overdose of this medicine.

Treatment options for the flu and the cold

Examine the label before using an over-the-counter cough, cold, or flu medicine. Does it have acetaminophen in it?

Know how many milligrams are in your medicines

Each pill in over-the-counter acetaminophen medications may have 325, 500, or 650 milligrams of the medication. When taking 500 or 650 mg medications, exercise particular caution.

Observe suggested dosages

Do not give in to the temptation to take more acetaminophen than is advisable. A small-framed person ought to stick to the lower end of the spectrum of acceptable doses (3,000 mg).

Take it easy with the alcohol

Alcohol consumption causes the liver to produce more harmful metabolites from the acetaminophen you consume. When using this, males should not have more than two standard beers per day (one drink per day for women).

Determine whether your drugs interact

Find out from your doctor or pharmacist whether any of your prescription drugs could have dangerous interactions with acetaminophen.

The Bottom Line

Never take more than one acetaminophen-containing medicine at once without first consulting your doctor or pharmacist. Always read the labels to determine the correct dosage, keep in mind the daily maximum, and check each product’s instructions for dosage. If you think you may have accidentally taken too much, get treatment right away. Medication is not necessarily risk-free just because it does not have a prescription.