Acetaminophen

Definition

Acetaminophen, paracetamol, is a medicine that is sold over the counter, and combined with stronger pain relievers by prescription, to relieve mild to moderate pain.

Purpose

Acetaminophen and aspirin are equally effective as pain relievers. But, unlike aspirin, acetaminophen does not reduce inflammation.


Description

Acetaminophen is sold under various brand names: Tylenol, Panadol, Aspirin Free Anacin, and Bayer Select Maximum Strength Headache Pain Relief Formula.
Over the counter acetaminophen is available as tablets, chewable tablets, capsules, oral suspension and drops, and as rectal suppositories.
Acetaminophen, in usual doses and for short periods of time, is considered safe for use during pregnancy and nursing. Many multi-symptom cold, flu, and sinus medicines contain acetaminophen.


Precautions

Take with food or milk to reduce the possibility of stomach upset. Acetaminophen is combined with narcotics and strong non-narcotic pain relievers in prescription products. It is also combined with cold and flu products sold over the counter. Thus, caution is advised when taking prescription and over the counter products together to avoid unknowingly overdosing on the drug. In acute conditions with pain and fever, acetaminophen should be used only for one to two days before seeking medical attention. If there is a sore throat, fever, rash, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, immediate medical attention should be sought. People who consume three or more alcoholic beverages a day are at greater risk of liver disease if they take acetaminophen. Acetaminophen interferes with the results of some laboratory tests. Check with your doctor if you take acetaminophen and are scheduled for tests. Acetaminophen does not reduce inflammation, swelling, or have anti-rheumatic effects.

Side effects

Common side effects of acetaminophen include generalized rash, hives, itching and hoarseness. If difficulty breathing develops, there may be an allergic reaction and immediate medical attention is needed. Acute overdoses of acetaminophen may cause nausea, vomiting, sweating, exhaustion, upper abdominal pain and flu-like symptoms. Chronic, daily use of moderate to large doses of acetaminophen and/or combining acetaminophen with moderately heavy use of alcohol can result in liver damage and failure. Liver failure symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, and unusual bleeding or bruising.

Interactions

Acetaminophen may increase the effects of the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). The toxicity and effects of acetaminophen may be increased by the anti-tuberculosis drug isoniazid and imatinib. The toxicity and effectiveness of acetaminophen may be decreased by phenytoin (Dilantin), barbiturates, the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine resin (Questran), and carbamazepine.