Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, is one of the most popular painkillers people use to treat aches or reduce fever. At recommended doses, it is considered to be safe, although precaution is advised in order to avoid accidental overdosing. People living with certain conditions may also need to seek medical advice to make sure this drug is safe for them to take. We delve into these caveats using information from health agencies.
The following text is based on information by the UK National Health System (NHS) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is meant for general purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for actual medical guidance. Always talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about painkillers and other medications, or think your health condition or current medication may interact with acetaminophen. Always follow advice by your doctor or pharmacist above everything else.
Paracetamol is safe to take for most people, as long as you don’t exceed recommended amounts
Acetaminophen is considered safe to take, as long as you don’t exceed recommended doses or take it for prolonged periods of time. NHS experts note that it can be taken with the majority of prescription medicines, antibiotics included. However, some people should let doctors know about their plans to take paracetamol if they are already taking warfanin, a blood thinner. This is because paracetamol is known to increase chances of bleeding in those people who take it regularly, according to the NHS site. Some drugs used to treat epilepsy or tuberculosis may also interact, experts warn, so it’s best to check with your doctor in these cases.
For safety, the NHS recommends you talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have experienced an allergic episode in reaction to paracetamol “or any other medicines”. People who drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week — the maximum recommended amount — should also check with a healthcare professional. The US Food and Drug Administration site on acetaminophen notes that an overdose may lead to severe liver damage, which is why it is critical to be aware of how much acetaminophen you are taking — directly or as an ingredient in other remedies —, and limit your alcohol intake — the FDA says you risk severe liver damage if you have more than two alcoholic drinks a day when taking this painkiller. People who already live with liver disease should therefore talk to a doctor before to make sure whether it is safe or not to take acetaminophen.
Paracetamol in flu and cold remedies
Even if paracetamol is sold without prescription, you should not take it freely. If your pain persists for a few days, the best thing you can do is seek medical advice instead of simply take painkillers indefinitely. Health agencies insist it is extremely important to stick to recommended doses and never surpass them, as serious side effects may appear as a consequence of overdosing. According to the NHS, you should never take more than 4 doses in the case of adults (this is up to eight 500mg tablets) in the span of 24 hours. This applies to adults only, be sure to talk to your pharmacist if your kids need to take painkillers. You should always leave a minimum of 4 hours between doses, this source claims. If you forgot to take a dose or still don’t feel the effects on your pain, do not take additional doses to compensate.
Paracetamol is presented in a variety of formats, and is a common ingredient in many flu and cold remedies. It’s important to know that they also count towards safety limits. This is why experts stress the importance of checking the labels before taking any other medicines to prevent an accidental overdose. Migraine and cough remedies often include paracetamol, per the NHS site. Other prescription medicines also combine paracetamol with other painkillers, so it is important to be aware of their contents.