Acetaminophen is a popular pain relieving and fever reducing drug that can easily be purchased over the counter. It is available under the name Tylenol. Stronger doses may need to be prescribed by a doctor.

This drug is readily available, and many people use it quite often. It is used to treat all types of aches and pains, including headaches, muscle aches, pain associated with many health conditions and fevers. It is even available in children’s and infant’s formulas.

Although it is advised that acetaminophen is not to be used for more than ten consecutive days, except under the advice of a physician, many people tend to use it on a daily basis. It is often a misused drug, and both adults and children tend to take it even when it is not necessary.

How Is Acetaminophen Taken?

Acetaminophen is available in combination with other drugs. When combined with hydrocodone, it is called Vicodin, and the combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone is known as Percocet. Both of these pain relievers are highly addictive.

Under the name Tylenol, acetaminophen is available in immediate release tablets. This form can be purchased in either regular or extra strength formulas. Regular strength is 325-650 mg PO/PR q4hr PRN and extra strength is 1000 mg PO q6-8hr PRN. An extended release formula of (1300 mg) PO q8hr PRN is also available.

What Are The Side Effects Of Acetaminophen?

When taken as directed, acetaminophen is generally a safe drug. Due to the common misuse of the medication, there are some serious side effects to consider. Many people, especially those under the age of 25 tend to become dependent on acetaminophen. Some people notice the following side effects: nausea, vomiting, severe stomach pain, dark urine, headache, rash, itching, and jaundice. More serious side effects include dizziness, itching or swelling of the tongue, face or throat, and difficulty breathing. Get medical help immediately if you experience any of these side effects when taking acetaminophen.

When using acetaminophen, patients may experience signs of an allergic reaction. These signs include hives and closing of the throat. Dial 911 or head to the nearest emergency room in the event that this happens.

Tylenol is available in the nighttime form called Tylenol PM. This formula promotes restful sleep and many people take it on a regular basis. It is this type of behavior that leads to abuse of acetaminophen, especially if it is also taken during the day for various aches and pains. This can lead to serious side effects acetaminophen

Many people assume that because acetaminophen is available over the counter, it can be taken as often as a person likes. This is a common misconception. The brand names such as NyQuil, Excedrin, and others are available in food, drug, and retail stores nationwide. It is an inexpensive drug, making it even easier for anyone to obtain. Misuse of this medication can cause long-term health effects. Patients can suffer liver failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney disease, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. It is common for those with chronic conditions to accidentally take toxic amounts of acetaminophen. Chronic use of the drug can even cause leukemia.

How Can Side Effects Be Prevented?

In order to prevent serious side effects from occurring from acetaminophen use, extreme care should be taken when using the drug or administering the medication to children. Acetaminophen is actually not a very strong pain reliever. In cases of severe pain or injury, a high dose of the medication would be needed to be effective. It is cases like these where side effects are likely to occur. Patients should not take acetaminophen unless a fever is over 102 degrees, or unless they have pain that they are unable to tolerate. Severe cases of fever or pain should be assessed by a doctor before acetaminophen is taken.

What Is The Proper Way To Use Acetaminophen?

For acute use of acetaminophen, adults should take no more than 3,000 mg per day for only a few consecutive days. Any more often is considered chronic use, which is unsafe and can cause the unpleasant side effects discussed above.

What Are The Symptoms Of An Overdose?

Symptoms of an overdose include severe nausea and vomiting, jaundice, flu-like symptoms and unusual bleeding or bruising. Seek medical attention immediately if these side effects acetaminophen happen.


When used correctly for occasional relief of pain or fever, acetaminophen is a safe over the counter medication that causes little to no side effects. Misuse can lead to dangerous side effects, so use the drug according to doctor’s and manufacturer’s directions.