acetaminophen, Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is acetaminophen, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Acetaminophen belongs to a class of drugs called analgesics (pain relievers) and antipyretics (fever reducers). The exact mechanism of action of acetaminophen is not known. It may reduce the production of prostaglandins in the brain. Prostaglandins are chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling. Acetaminophen relieves pain by elevating the pain threshold, that is, by requiring a greater amount of pain to develop before a person feels it. It reduces fever through its action on the heat-regulating center of the brain. Specifically, it tells the center to lower the body's temperature when the temperature is elevated. The FDA approved acetaminophen in 1951.

What brand names are available for acetaminophen?

Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain Reliever, Little Fevers Infant Fever/Pain Reliever, PediaCare Single Dose Acetaminophen Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever, and others

Is acetaminophen available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes.

Do I need a prescription for acetaminophen?

No.

What are the side effects of acetaminophen?

When used appropriately, side effects with acetaminophen are not common. The most serious side effect is liver damage due to large doses, chronic use or concomitant use with alcohol or other drugs that also damage the liver.

Chronic alcohol use may also increase the risk of stomach bleeding.

Other important side effects include:

  • hypersensitivity reactions and
  • serious skin reactions

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/30/2015

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