Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen

Topic Overview

Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) reduces fever and relieves pain. It does not reduce inflammation, as do nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, but it is less likely to cause stomach upset and other side effects.

Be sure to follow the nonprescription medicine precautions.

Dosage

  • Adults: The usual dose is 325 mg to 650 mg. Take every 4 to 6 hours, as needed, up to 4 times in a 24-hour period. The maximum dose may vary from 3,000 mg to 4,000 mg, but do not take more than 4,000 mg in a 24-hour period. Follow all instructions on the label.
  • Children: Your child's over-the-counter medicine will have a "Drug Facts" label. On the label, you'll find directions for your child's age or weight, the dose to give, and how often to give the dose. If you give medicine to your baby, follow your doctor's or pharmacist's advice about what amount to give. Do not use acetaminophen if your child is allergic to it.
    • Be extra careful with liquid medicines. Infants usually need a different dose than older children do. And some liquid forms are stronger (more concentrated) than others. Always read the label so that you give the right dose.
    • When you give medicine, use the tool that comes with the medicine, such as a dropper or a dosing cup. Don't use a spoon instead of the tool. Spoons can be different sizes. If the medicine doesn't come with a tool to give doses, ask your pharmacist for one.
    • Acetaminophen can be found in many forms and comes in different doses. Do not give your child more than the maximum dose recommended on the label.
    • Be careful when giving your child over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and acetaminophen (Tylenol) at the same time. Many of these medicines already contain acetaminophen. Too much acetaminophen can be harmful.
    • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are different products with different dosing recommendations. Talk to your child's doctor or a pharmacist before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine. Studies have not shown any added benefit from alternating these medicines.

Side effects of acetaminophen are rare if it is taken in correct doses.

  • Nausea and rash are the most common.
  • High doses of acetaminophen can cause liver and kidney damage.

Reasons not to take acetaminophen

Do not take acetaminophen if you:

  • Have liver disease.
  • Drink alcohol heavily (3 or more drinks a day for men and 2 or more drinks a day for women).

Credits

Current as of: April 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
David Messenger MD

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