Acetaminophen

What is acetaminophen?

Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and a fever reducer.

Acetaminophen is used to treat many conditions such as headache, muscle aches, arthritis, backache, toothaches, colds, and fevers.

Acetaminophen may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important information

You should not use this medication if you have severe liver disease.

An overdose of acetaminophen can damage your liver or cause death.

Adults and teenagers who weigh at least 110 pounds should not take more than 1000 milligrams (mg) at one time, or more than 4000 mg in 24 hours.

Children younger than 12 years old should not take more than 5 doses in 24 hours, using only the number of milligrams per dose that is recommended for the child’s weight and age. Use exactly as directed on the label.

Avoid also using other medicines that contain acetaminophen (sometimes abbreviated as APAP), or you could have a fatal overdose.

Call your doctor at once if you have nausea, pain in your upper stomach, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes).

Stop taking this medicine and call your doctor right away if you have skin redness or a rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling.

Before taking this medicine

You should not take acetaminophen if you are allergic to it, or if you have severe liver disease.

Do not take this medicine without a doctor’s advice if you have ever had alcoholic liver disease (cirrhosis) or if you drink more than 3 alcoholic beverages per day. You may not be able to take acetaminophen.

Your doctor will determine whether acetaminophen is safe for you to use during pregnancy. Do not use this medicine without the advice of your doctor if you are pregnant.

Acetaminophen can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Do not give this medicine to a child younger than 2 years old without the advice of a doctor.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since acetaminophen is taken as needed, you may not be on a dosing schedule. If you are taking the medication regularly, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of acetaminophen can be fatal.

The first signs of an acetaminophen overdose include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, sweating, and confusion or weakness. Later symptoms may include pain in your upper stomach, dark urine, and yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.

What should I avoid while taking acetaminophen?

Ask a doctor or pharmacist before using any other cold, allergy, pain, or sleep medication. Acetaminophen (sometimes abbreviated as APAP) is contained in many combination medicines. Taking certain products together can cause you to get too much acetaminophen which can lead to a fatal overdose. Check the label to see if a medicine contains acetaminophen or APAP.

Avoid drinking alcohol. It may increase your risk of liver damage while taking acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to acetaminophen: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

In rare cases, acetaminophen may cause a severe skin reaction that can be fatal. This could occur even if you have taken this medicine in the past and had no reaction. Stop taking this medicine and call your doctor right away if you have skin redness or a rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling. If you have this type of reaction, you should never again take any medicine that contains acetaminophen.

Stop taking acetaminophen and call your doctor at once if you have:
  •     nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite;
  •     dark urine, clay-colored stools;
  •     jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).