Questions about your medicines containing acetaminophen? We’re here to help. Read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Acetaminophen is an ingredient found in more than 600 different over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription (Rx) medicines. It is a temporary fever reducer and pain reliever for mild to moderate pain caused by headaches and migraines, muscle aches, back pain, arthritis and joint pain, the common cold, toothaches, and premenstrual and menstrual cramps. If your pain gets worse or lasts for more than 10 days, or if your fever worsens or lasts more than three days, stop use and talk to a healthcare provider.
Yes, acetaminophen is safe when used as directed. It is the most commonly used drug ingredient in America and is relied upon to relieve pain and reduce fever. It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is safe and effective at recommended doses for people ages 2 years and older. For people under the age of 2, consult your healthcare provider.
As with any medicine, acetaminophen must be used according to the directions on the OTC medicine’s Drug Facts label or the prescription medicine’s label. You should never take a larger dose or use the medicine for longer than the label instructs. In addition, it is important to make sure you are taking only one medicine that contains acetaminophen at the same time. Taking more than the recommended amount is an overdose and can lead to liver damage. Always read and follow the label.
Acetaminophen comes in many forms, shapes, and strengths, including liquids, pills, gel caps, powders, and IV fluids. It is found in both prescription and OTC medicines. Always check your OTC and prescription labels to see if your medicines contain acetaminophen. For a photo library of medicines, please visit the National Library of Medicine.
Forms of Acetaminophen
Shapes of Acetaminophen
Acetaminophen is found in more than 600 different prescription and OTC medicines, including pain relievers; fever reducers; sleep aids; and cold, flu, and allergy medicines.
OTC medicines that contain acetaminophen always list the ingredient on the Drug Facts label in the active ingredient section. The word acetaminophen may be highlighted to draw your attention to it. It will also be written on the front of the package. It is important to know that prescription medicines might use an abbreviation for acetaminophen on their labels, such as “APAP,” “acetam,” or another shortened version of the word. All of these mean that acetaminophen is in the medicine.
You can find a list of some common medicines that contain acetaminophen here and learn more about how to read medicine labels here. You should always consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions about active ingredients.
Talk to your healthcare provider before taking acetaminophen if you drink more than three alcoholic drinks every day or if you have liver disease. Under these conditions, taking acetaminophen puts you at greater risk of getting liver damage, even when taking acetaminophen at the recommended dose.
If you take the blood thinner warfarin, you should talk to your healthcare provider before taking acetaminophen because taking warfarin and acetaminophen together may increase your risk of bleeding. As with any medicine, ask a healthcare provider before taking acetaminophen if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Taking too much acetaminophen is an overdose and can lead to liver damage. If you think you have taken too much acetaminophen or have given too much acetaminophen to someone you care for, contact a healthcare provider or the nationwide poison control helpline immediately at 1-800-222-1222.