Understanding Acetaminophen’s Side-effects

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be dangerous if used incorrectly

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be dangerous if used incorrectly

Acetaminophen (commonly sold as Tylenol) is one of Canada’s most widely used over-the-counter painkillers and fever reducers, and it is also a common ingredient in many cold and flu remediecans

Since it is widely available, most people assume it’s harmless. However, like all medications, acetaminophen can produce harmful side-effects, especially when used incorrectly or abused.

Acetaminophen and Liver Damage

While acetaminophen is safe for most people (when used correctly), it is known to increase liver enzyme levels, creating a potential for damage to the liver.

In fact, acetaminophen overdose (intentional or accidental) is a leading cause of serious (even fatal) liver damage. There is also evidence that long-term use of acetaminophen may damage liver function.

Use acetaminophen and all pain medications with care.

Safety Tips
 for Pain Medication

Read the labels of all OTC medications (especially cold and flu preparations) carefully to see if they contain acetaminophen. Take note of the amount of acetaminophen and calculate it into the recommended daily dosage for this drug.

  2. Follow dosing instructions carefully and do not exceed the recommended daily dosage. Read the label carefully as the dosage will vary according to the age and size of the person (e.g., 4,000 mg per day or eight extra-strength 500 mg pills for an average-sized adult). If you must use pain medicine, try to manage discomfort with the lowest possible dosage. 

  3. If you regularly consume alcohol, or have liver or kidney disease, talk to your doctor before taking acetaminophen.
Pay close attention to dosing recommendations for children. Overdose can occur quickly.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.