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My Health Tip: Tylenol (Acetaminophen) in Prescription and Over-the-counter Products

Tylenol is a household name for acetaminophen, a drug used for relieving pain or breaking a fever. It can be found in many medicine cabinets across the US. Tylenol can be great for the occasional ache and pain, headache or fever reduction when taken as directed. However, if too much is taken over a short period of time, your liver can become damaged.

Acetaminophen overdose is a leading cause of acute liver failure and almost half of those cases occurred by accident. Not only can acetaminophen be found in the red box on the shelf of the local pharmacy, but it is also “hidden” in many products. It is commonly used in combination with prescription opioids such as Percocet, Vicodin, Norco, Fioricet and Ultracet. It can also be found in many cold/flu products that help with sore throats or aches. Make sure you read the label to see if acetaminophen is in the product you want to buy. When in doubt, consult your pharmacist.

Take home points:

  • Keep your acetaminophen intake to less than 3,000mg in a 24 hour period.
  • Only take one product that contains acetaminophen unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications contain acetaminophen to make sure you stay under your daily limit.
  • Always read the label and take medications exactly as directed.

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