Acetaminophen

Topic Overview

Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) reduces fever and relieves pain. It does not reduce inflammation, as do non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, but it is less likely to cause stomach upset and other side effects.

Be sure to follow the non-prescription medicine precautions.

Dosage

    • Adults and Children over 12 years of age: The usual dose is 325 mg to 650 mg. Take every 4 to 6 hours, as needed. The maximum dose may vary from 3,000 mg to 4,000 mg but do not take more than 4,000 mg in a 24-hour period. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, ask a healthcare professional before use. Follow all instructions on the label.
    • Children 11 years and younger: Give acetaminophen every 4 to 6 hours as needed. Do not give more than 5 doses in a 24-hour period. Dosages are based on the child's weight. There are different acetaminophen products for infants and children.
      • Acetaminophen can be found in many forms and comes in different doses.
      • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
      • Do not give your child more than the maximum dose recommended on the label.
      • Be careful when taking over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and acetaminophen (Tylenol) at the same time. Many of these medicines already contain acetaminophen. Too much acetaminophen can be harmful.
      • If you give medicine to your baby, follow your doctor's or pharmacist's advice about what amount to give. Do not use acetaminophen if your child is allergic to it.
      • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are different products with different dosing recommendations. Talk to your child's doctor or a pharmacist before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine. Studies have not shown any added benefit from alternating these medicines.
      • Talk to your doctor or a pharmacist before you give medicine to reduce a fever in a baby who is 3 months of age or younger. This is to make sure a young baby's fever is not a sign of a serious illness. Fevers sometimes occur as a reaction to immunizations.
      • See Acetaminophen Use in Young Children for more information.

Side effects of acetaminophen are rare if it is taken in correct doses.

    • High doses of acetaminophen can cause liver and kidney damage.

Reasons not to take acetaminophen

    • Ask a doctor before taking acetaminophen if you have liver or kidney disease or if you take blood thinning medication that contains warfarin. 
    • If you are taking acetaminophen it is best to limit or avoid consuming alcohol. Acetaminophen may cause severe or even fatal liver damage if you consume 3 or more drinks a day for men or 2 or more drinks a day for women.
    • Stop using acetaminophen and contact your doctor if your pain lasts for more than 5 days or a fever lasts more than 3 days.  

Credits

Adaptation Date: 7/20/2020

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC

Is it an emergency?

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