All About Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen or Tylenol
Acetaminophen tablets. David Sucsy/Getty Images

Tylenol, or acetaminophen (generic), can be a great medication to treat minor symptoms of common illnesses. It is used to treat pain and fevers and is one of the most popular drugs on the market. Find out what you need to know about this medication before you take it.

Active Ingredient

Acetaminophen

May also be listed as APAP or paracetamol

    What It Does

    Acetaminophen is classified as an analgesic and antipyretic.

    These are medical terms for pain reliever and fever reducer. Acetaminophen is used in a wide range of medications.

    It can be used to help with:

    • Pain, including headaches, joint pain and sore throat
    • Fever
    • Other minor aches and pains
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Toothaches
    • Reaction to vaccinations
    • Migraines - in combination with aspirin and caffeine

    Efficacy

    Tylenol is considered safe and effective if used properly. It can be used in children as young as two months old. It should not be used by people with liver problems or those who drink more than 3 alcoholic beverages per day. 

      It is important to take the appropriate dose of acetaminophen. Adults should not take more than 4000mg in 24 hours. The maximum dose for a child will depend on his weight and age. Be sure to read the labels of all medications you are taking. Many over the counter multi-symptom medications contain acetaminophen. You should not take additional acetaminophen or Tylenol if you are also taking a multi-symptom medication that includes this ingredient.

      Several prescription pain relievers include acetaminophen as well. Be sure to check with your pharmacist or health care provider if you aren't sure what ingredients are included in the medicines you are taking. 

      Dosing

      When acetaminophen is taken alone (not as part of a multi-symptom medication), it can be taken every four hours as needed for pain or fever.

      Children should not take more than 5 doses in 24 hours. 

      The FDA recommends that adults take no more than 4000mg of acetaminophen in a 24 hour period. However, many manufacturers now list the maximum daily dose as 3000mg. Be sure to check the label on the medicine you are taking and follow the directions listed. 

      Check with your child's doctor for dosage information based on his or her weight or use our Guide to Pediatrics' Tylenol Dosage Calculator.

        Tylenol Warnings

        Great care should be taken not to exceed the recommended amount of Tylenol. Although it is considered one of the safest pain relievers/fever reducers, it can cause severe liver damage or death if too much is taken.

        Symptoms of acetaminophen overdose include:

        • Nausea/vomiting
        • Sweating
        • No appetite
        • Yellowing of skin or eyes
        • Extreme tiredness
        • Unusual bleeding or bruising
        • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen or stomach
        • Flu-like symptoms

        If you have taken too much acetaminophen - even if you have no symptoms - contact your health care provider and/or Poison Control (1-800-222-1222 in the United States) immediately.

        Sources:

        "Acetaminophen". MedlinePlus 15 Aug 14. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. US National Library of Medicine. US Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. 19 Feb 16. 

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