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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: The usual dose is 325 mg to 650 mg. Take every 4 to 6 hours, as needed, up to 4 times in a 24-hour period. 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. Follow all instructions on the label.
  • Children: Check with your child's doctor or a pharmacist if your child is less than 6 years old or less than 24 kilograms. Give acetaminophen every 4 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. The exception is if your baby has just had an immunization. Fevers sometimes occur as a reaction to immunizations. After immunizations, you can give your baby medicine to reduce a fever.
Acetaminophen dose for your child's weight

Child's weight in kilograms

Child's weight in pounds

Dose in milligrams


Less than 5.4


Less than 11.0


Ask a doctor or a pharmacist


5.5–7.9


12.0–17.0


80 mg


8.0–10.9


18.0–23.0


120 mg


11.0–15.9


24.0–35.0


160 mg


16.0–21.9


36.0–47.0


240 mg


22.0–26.9


48.0–59.0


320 mg


27.0–31.9


60.0–71.0


400 mg


32.0–43.9


72.0–95.0


480 mg

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

  • Nausea and rash are the most common.
  • High doses of acetaminophen can cause liver and kidney damage.

Reasons not to take acetaminophen

Do not take acetaminophen if you:

  • Have liver disease.
  • Drink alcohol heavily (3 or more drinks a day for men and 2 or more drinks a day for women).

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid Messenger, BSc, MD, FRCPC, FCCP - Emergency Medicine, Critical Care Medicine

Current as ofNovember 20, 2017