Acetaminophen—take as directed

Posted October 15, 2014

icon of medicine bottleCommon advice to “read the label” and “take as directed” was never more important than in the case of acetaminophen, one of the most popular over-the-counter pain relievers that is best known under the brand-name Tylenol®.

In the past year, Tylenol added “red warnings” about acetaminophen on its bottle caps, and the Food and Drug Administration urged health care professionals to stop prescribing certain pain medicines that contain more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per dose.

What’s all the fuss about?

There’s no doubt that acetaminophen is safe and effective when taken as directed, which means taking no more than 4,000 milligrams a day. The problem is how easy it can be to accidently overdose—causing serious liver damage and even death.
Many people are unaware that acetaminophen can be found in more than 600 common over-the-counter and prescription products, including:

  • Generic and store-brand pain relievers (Excedrin®)
  • Fever reducers and sleep aids (NyQuil®/DayQuil®)
  • Cough (Robitussin®, Vicks Formula 44®), cold and allergy medicines (Sudafed®, Sinutab®)
  • Certain prescribed pain relievers such as Percocet®, Vicodin® or Tylenol with codeine

What’s the bottom line?

  • Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time.
  • Read the drug label or the drug leaflet for the list of ingredients.
  • Look for the word “acetaminophen” or the letters “APAP” or “AC”, abbreviations sometimes used for the drug.

If you are still unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.