- A Visual Guide to Migraine Headaches Slideshow
- Headache and Migraine Triggers Slideshow
- Take the Migraines Quiz
- What is acetaminophen? How does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What are the uses for acetaminophen?
- What are the side effects of acetaminophen?
- What is the dosage for acetaminophen for children and adults?
- What drugs interact with acetaminophen?
- Is acetaminophen safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What brand names are available for acetaminophen?
- What else should I know about acetaminophen?
What is acetaminophen? 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 are the uses for acetaminophen?
Acetaminophen is used for the relief of fever as well as aches and pains associated with many conditions. Acetaminophen relieves pain in mild arthritis but has no effect on the underlying inflammation, redness, and swelling of the joint. If the pain is not due to inflammation, acetaminophen is as effective as aspirin.
Acetaminophen is as effective as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen (Motrin) in relieving the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee. Unless directed by a physician, acetaminophen should not be used for longer than 10 days.
Quick GuideMigraine or Headache? Migraine Symptoms, Triggers, Treatment
What are the side effects of acetaminophen?
When used appropriately, side effects with acetaminophen are not common.
Other important side effects include:
- Hypersensitivity reactions
- Serious skin reactions
- Kidney damage
- Reduced number of platelets in the blood (thrombocytopenia)
Chronic alcohol use may also increase the risk of stomach bleeding. 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.
Other serious side effects that have been reported include bleeding in the intestines and stomach, angioedema, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and kidney damage. A reduction in the number of white blood cells has also been reported.
What is the dosage for acetaminophen for children and adults?
- The dose for adults is 325 to 650 mg every 4 hours or 500 mg every 8 hours when using immediate release formulations.
- The dose for extended release caplet is 1300 mg every 8 hours.
- The maximum daily dose is 4 grams.
- The oral dose for a child is based on the child's age and weight. If less than 12 years of age, the dosing is 10-15 mg/kg every 6-8 hours not to exceed 2.6 g/day (5 doses). If older than 12 years of age the dose is 40-60 mg/kg/day every 6 hours not to exceed 3.75 g/day (5 doses).
What drugs interact with acetaminophen?
Acetaminophen is metabolized (eliminated by conversion to other chemicals) by the liver. Therefore drugs that increase the action of liver enzymes that metabolize acetaminophen, [for example, carbamazepine (Tegretol), isoniazid, rifampin (Rifamate, Rifadin, and Rimactane),] reduce the levels of acetaminophen and may decrease the effectiveness action of acetaminophen.
Doses of acetaminophen greater than the recommended doses are toxic to the liver and may result in severe liver damage. The potential for acetaminophen to harm the liver is increased when it is combined with alcohol or drugs that also harm the liver.
Cholestyramine (Questran) reduces the effect of acetaminophen by decreasing its absorption into the body from the intestine. Therefore, acetaminophen should be administered 3 to 4 hours after cholestyramine or one hour before cholestyramine .
Acetaminophen doses greater than 2275 mg per day may increase the blood thinning effect of warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) by an unknown mechanism. Therefore, prolonged administration or large doses of acetaminophen should be avoided during warfarin therapy.
Is acetaminophen safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
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, Infants Feverall, Acephen, Neopap, and others.
What else should I know about acetaminophen?
What preparations of acetaminophen are available?
- Solution/suspension/syrup: 160 mg/5 ml
- Liquid: 500 mg/ml
- Chewable tablets: 80, 160 mg
- Tablet (disintegrating) 80, 160 mg
- Caplets: 325, 500, 650 mg
- Caplet (extended release): 650 mg
- Gelcaps: 500 mg
- Geltabs: 500 mg
- Suppository: 80, 120, 325, 650 mg
How should I keep acetaminophen stored?
Tablets and solutions should be stored at room temperature 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F). Suppositories should be refrigerated between 2 C and 27 C (35 F and 80 F).
A prescription is not necessary for OTC acetaminophen, however, medicines that contain acetaminophen and another painkillers such as hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin) or codeine (Tylenol #4) require a prescription.
Acetaminophen is a drug that reduces fever and relieves pain. It is available alone, or in combination with hundreds of other drugs available both over-the-counter (without a prescription) or that that may require a prescription from your doctor, for example, acetaminophen and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco) or acetaminophen and oxycodone (Percocet).
Acetaminophen treats a variety of diseases or other medical problems that cause pain or fever. Examples of conditions acetaminophen treats include, headache, minor arthritis pain, back pain, tooth pain, menstrual cramps, PMS, osteoarthritis, common cold, tension headache, chronic pain, hip pain, shoulder and neck pain, sore throat, sinus infection, teething, TMJ, bites and stings, and sprains and strains.
Acetaminophen generally has no side effects when taken as prescribed. When
side effects are experienced, the most common are headache, rash, and nausea.
In 2014, the FDA recommended that doctors and other health care professionals only prescribe acetaminophen in doses of 325 mg or less. This warning highlights the potential for allergic reactions, for example, face, mouth, and throat swelling, difficulty breathing, itching, or rash. This action also will help reduce the risk of severe liver injury and serious allergic reactions associated with this drug. Other possible serious side effects adverse effects include anemia, kidney damage, thrombocytopenia (a reduced number of platelets in the blood), and liver problems.
Other patient information. Do not take more than one product that contains acetaminophen at the same time. Do not take more than one acetaminophen-containing drug than directed. Do not drink alcohol while taking medicine that contains acetaminophen due to severe liver damage.
REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Information.
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Treatment & Diagnosis
- Finger Pain
- Toe Pain
- Rectal Pain
- Hand Pain
- Buttock Pain
- Wrist Pain
- Joint Pain
- Arm Pain
- Ankle Pain
- Swollen Ankles and/or Swollen Feet
- Hip Pain
- Joint Cracking (Joint Popping)
- Sore Tongue
- Foot Pain
- Shoulder Pain
- Tightness in Chest
- Elbow Pain
- Stiff Neck
- Jaw Pain
- Joint Stiffness
- Groin Pain
- Painful Gums
- Swollen Joints
- Knee Pain
- Heel Pain
- Neck Pain (Cervicalgia)
- Menstrual Cramps
- Unsteady Gait
- West Nile Virus
- Joint Redness
- Sore Throat (Pharyngitis)
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Joint Deformity
- Chronic Sore Throat
- Kidney Stone
- Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
- Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono)
- Common Cold
- Chronic Pain
- Upper Respiratory Infection
- Doctor: Checklist to Take To Your Doctor's Appointment
- Zika Virus Infection
- Measles (Rubeola)
- Enterovirus (Non-Polio Enterovirus Infection)
- Cold & Flu FAQs
- Headaches FAQs
- Back Pain FAQs
- Pain FAQs
- Chickenpox FAQs
- Strep Streptococcal Throat Infection FAQs
- Tylenol Toxicity
- Pain Management Over-The-Counter
- Prescriptions: Complying with the Doctor's Orders
- Drug Interactions: Know Ingredients, Consult Your Physician
- How To Reduce Your Medication Costs
- Pharmacy Visit, How To Get The Most Out of Your Visit
- Indications for Drugs: Approved vs. Non-approved
- Pain (Acute and Chronic)
- Drugs: Buying Prescription Drugs Online Safely
- Drugs: The Most Common Medication Errors
- Medication Disposal
- Dangers of Mixing Medications
- Swine Flu: One New York City Pediatrician's View
- Propofol (Diprivan) Safety
- Swine Flu Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Vaccination
- What to Do in a Drug Recall
- Kidney Infections During Pregnancy
- Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Home Remedies for Shingles
- Can Children Get Erythema Nodosum?
- Is Reye Syndrome Less Common than It Used to Be?
- Why Is It Called Reye's Syndrome?
- Osteoarthritis of the Hands
- Home Remedies, Treatment, and Prevention of Sprains and Strains
- When to Call the Doctor for Fever, Nausea, Diarrhea, Colds, and Coughs
- Bug Bite Treatment
- Pain Relievers and High Blood Pressure
- Generic Drugs, Are They as Good as Brand-Names?
Medications & Supplements
- Acetaminophen vs. Ibuprofen for Pain (Differences in Side Effects and Dosage)
- hydrocodone/acetaminophen, Vicodin, Vicodin ES, Vicodin HP, Anexsia, Lortab, Lorcet, Lorcet Plus, No
- Drugs: What You Should Know About Your Drugs
- Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen, Roxicet, Tylox, Oxycet)
- tramadol and acetaminophen, Ultracet
- Drug Interactions
- Oxycodone vs. Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) for Pain
- butalbital/acetaminophen/caffeine (Esgic, Fioricet)
- butalbital/acetaminophen/caffeine (Alagesic LQ, Capacet, Dolgic Plus, Esgic, Fioricet, and Others)
- OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
- propoxyphene and acetaminophen, Darvocet A500; Darvocet-N, Wygesic
- isometheptene, acetaminophen, dichloralphenazone - oral, Amidrine, Isocom, Midchlor, Mi
- expectorant/decongestant/narcotic antitussive/acetaminophen-oral
- dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera)
- butalbital/acetaminophen - oral, Phrenilin
- acetaminophen/phenyltoloxamine-oral, Dologesic, Flextra-650, Novagesic, Rhinoflex, Staflex
- salicylamide/acetaminophen/phenyltoloxamine - oral, Anabar, Dolorex, Lobac
- pentazocine/acetaminophen - oral, Talacen
- decongestant/narcotic antitussive/acetaminoph/antihistamine - oral
Prevention & Wellness
- Non-Opioids Often Underused After Back Surgery
- Fighting a Cold or Flu? Beware of Overdosing on Tylenol
- Acetaminophen in Pregnancy Tied to Language Delays -- in One Sex
- Many Migraine Sufferers Given Unecessary Opioids, Study Finds
- Medication Mistakes Have Doubled in U.S. Since 2000: Study
- When Is an Opioid Safe to Take?
- Marathon Running May Cause Short-Term Kidney Injury
- Fewer U.S. Kids Overdosing on Opioids
- Spring-Clean Your Medicine Cabinet to Safeguard Your Kids
- Kids' OD Risk Rises When Opioids Left Out at Home
- Try Drug-Free Options First for Low Back Pain, New Guidelines Say
- Common Painkillers Don't Ease Back Pain, Study Finds
- Kids Born to Opioid-Addicted Moms Seem to Fare Poorly in School
- Many Misuse OTC Sleep Aids: Survey
- Everyday Pain Relievers May Be Linked to Hearing Loss in Some Women
- Drug Use by U.S. Teens Drops to All-Time Low
- Self-Harm a Cause of Death During Pregnancy and for New Moms
- Number of Americans With Severe Joint Pain Keeps Rising
- Countless Opioid Pills Unused by Dental-Surgery Patients
- Nanoparticles Ease Aching Joints in Mice
- Codeine Not Safe for Kids, Pediatricians Warn
- Health Tip: Preparing for Baby's First Teeth
- Non-addictive Painkiller Shows Promise in Animal Trials
- Kids With Mild Asthma Can Take Acetaminophen: Study
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- New Guidelines Issued for Cancer Patients' Post-Treatment Pain
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- Infant Ear Infections Becoming Less Common
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- Prenatal Acetaminophen Use Tied to Higher Asthma Risk in Kids: Study
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- No Antibiotics for Common Respiratory Infections: Experts
- Acetaminophen Tops List of Accidental Infant Poisonings
- Did Painkiller Crackdown Cause Heroin Epidemic?
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- Many Americans Under 50 Living With Cold Sore Virus
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- Could Taking Acetaminophen Dull Your Happiness?
- Ear Infections Common, But Often Missed, in Infants
- Study Casts Doubt on Acetaminophen for Low Back Pain, Arthritis
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- Morphine After Tonsillectomy Tied to Breathing Problems in Study
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- FDA Warns Against Prescription Drugs With High Levels of Acetaminophen
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- Acetaminophen and Alcohol a Bad Mix, Study Suggests
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- Bufferin, Excedrin, NoDoz, Gas-X Recalled
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Daily Health News
Migraines and Headaches Resources
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Top acetaminophen Related Articles
Back Pain QuizThere are numerous causes of chronic lower back pain and only one ailment gets more complaints. What is it? Quiz your knowledge of symptoms, treatments, problems, and reasons for common back pain.
Canker sores are a common complaint, and are small ulcers on the inside of the mouth. Canker sores aren't contagious (as opposed to cold sores), and typically last for 10-14 days usually healing without scarring. A variety of things cause canker sores, for example, medications (aspirin, beta blockers, NSAIDs, high blood pressure medication, and antibiotics); injury to the mouth from dental work, braces, or sports accidents; acidic foods; allergies; and diseases or conditions like celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and lupus.
Canker sores can be cure with home remedies, and prescription and OTC topical and oral medication.
Cold Sores (Fever Blisters) PictureCold sores, sometimes called fever blisters, are groups of small blisters on the lip and around the mouth. See a picture of Cold Sores (Fever Blisters) and learn more about the health topic.
Foot Pain SlideshowLearn about common causes of foot pain such as bunions, corns, athlete's foot, plantar warts and more. Get the latest information on treatments for foot pain.
Gout (Gouty Arthritis)Buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint causes gouty arthritis. Symptoms and signs include joint pain, swelling, heat, and redness, typically of a single joint. Gout may be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication.
Headaches QuizIf you're plagued with headaches, our Headaches Quiz may help you identify causes, triggers, symptoms, and treatments for headache pain caused by different types of headaches such as migraines, sinus, cluster, tension, or stress.
HysteroscopyHysteroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed to diagnose and treat women's conditions such as:
- abnormal vaginal bleeding,
- congenital abnormalities of the female genital tract,
- scarring from previous procedures,
- and removal of uterine fibroids or tumors.
Kidney pain has a variety of causes and symptoms. Infection, injury, trauma, bleeding disorders, kidney stones, and less common conditions may lead to kidney pain. Symptoms associated with kidney pain may include fever, vomiting, nausea, flank pain, and painful urination.
Treatment of kidney pain depends on the cause of the pain.
Liver Blood TestsAn initial step in detecting liver damage is a simple blood test to determine the presence of certain liver enzymes in the blood. Under normal circumstances, these enzymes reside within the cells of the liver. But when the liver is injured, these enzymes are spilled into the blood stream, and can lead to diseases like fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hepatitis. Several medications also can increase liver enzyme test results.
Mohs SurgeryMohs micrographic surgery is a method of removing skin cancers with a local anesthetic. During the procedure, small layers of skin are removed and examined under a microscope until the skin samples indicate that all the cancer has been removed.
Nasal Airway SurgeryDeviated septum surgery (septoplasty) and turbinectomy (nasal airway surgery) is performed on individuals who have a deviated or crooked septum or enlarged tissues (turbinates) within the nose. The goal of surgery is to improve breathing, control nosebleeds, relieve sinus headaches, and promote drainage of the sinus cavities. Risks and complications of surgery should be discussed with the surgeon prior to surgery.
Swimmer's ear (external otitis) is an infection of the skin that covers the outer ear canal.
Causes of swimmer's ear include excessive water exposure that leads to trapped bacteria in the ear canal. Symptoms of simmer's include a feeling of fullness in the ear, itching, and ear pain. Chronic swimmer's ear may be caused by eczema, seborrhea, fungus, chronic irritation, and other conditions.
Common treatment includes antibiotic ear drops.
Take the Pain QuizIs pain all in the brain? Take the Pain Quiz to learn everything you've ever wanted to know about the unpleasant sensation we call pain.
Pain Management: Surprising Causes of PainWhat’s causing your pain? Learn the common causes of lower back pain, as well as pain in the knee, stomach, kidney, shoulder, chest, gallbladder, heel, sciatic nerve, neck, hip, foot and other parts of the body. Find pain management tips that work to help lower pain triggers, as well as other pain treatments.
RA SlideshowWhat is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Learn about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Discover rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. Treatment focuses on pain management and shortening the duration of the illness with antiviral medications.
Sore Throat SlideshowExplore the types and causes of a sore throat through pictures, including strep throat, and learn how to find relief from that raw, scratchy feeling.
TonsillectomyTonsillectomy is the surgical removal of both tonsils. A tonsillectomy may be performed in cases of recurrent tonsillitis, or treat sleep apnea and some speech disorders.