Acetaminophen Safety

Sick KidAcetaminophen relieves pain, reduces fever, and is the most common drug ingredient in U.S. It is found in more than 600 different medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, fever reducers, and sleep aids as well as cough, cold, and allergy medicines.

When used as directed, acetaminophen is safe and effective. But there is a limit to how much you can take in one day. Taking more acetaminophen than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage. For adults, acetaminophen is available in tablet or liquid form ranging from 325 mg (“regular strength”) to 500 mg (“extra strength”). The recommended single dose of acetaminophen for adults generally ranges from 325 mg to 1000 mg, and the maximum total daily dose is 4,000 mg. If giving acetaminophen to children, please see the pediatric dosing chart.

Follow three simple steps to use acetaminophen:

  1. Always read and follow the label.
    • Never take more medicine than the label says. Taking more acetaminophen than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.
     
  2. Know if your medicines contain acetaminophen.
    • It is important to check the active ingredients in all of your medicines to see if they contain acetaminophen.
    • On over-the-counter medicines, the word “acetaminophen” is listed on the front of the package or bottle and in the active ingredient section of the Drug Facts label.
    • On prescription labels, acetaminophen is sometimes listed as “APAP,” “acetam,” or other shortened versions of the word.
     
  3. Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time.
    • You can take too much acetaminophen if you use more than one medicine that contains acetaminophen at the same time.
     

Talk to your healthcare provider before taking acetaminophen if you drink three or more alcoholic drinks a day, if you have liver disease, or if you take warfarin. You may be at greater risk for liver damage. You should also talk to your healthcare professional if you are pregnant or breastfeeding before taking acetaminophen.

The CHPA Educational Foundation is a proud member of the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition whose goal is to educate patients and consumers on how to appropriately use medicines that contain acetaminophen. To learn about the coalition’s "Know Your Dose" campaign, visit KnowYourDose.org.

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