Tylenol - Acetaminophen's Dosage, Safety And Side Effects

Acetaminophen's Dosage

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As parents, we often believe that over-the-counter medications are safe for our kids. So, we go ahead and give our children these medications for minor fever, aches, and pains. But, did you know your child runs the risk of an overdose of OTC medications? Well, in some cases, these non-prescription drugs can wreak havoc in your little one’s body. One medicine that we often give our kids for fever and pain is Tylenol. It is crucial you learn the right dosage for your child to avoid complication. But, before we get to the dosage, let’s understand a little more about this drug that is available all over the world, albeit under different names, including Paracetamol, Acetaminophen, Feverall, Anacin, and Pediapap.

What Is In Tylenol?

When it comes to kids, Tylenol is the go-to medication for most parents. It is an analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer). The main active ingredient in Tylenol, which is a brand name, is acetaminophen. The OTC medicine helps treat a range of conditions, right from headaches, muscles aches, general body pain to menstrual pain, toothaches and even mild arthritis pain.

You can buy Tylenol as a prescription drug. In Tylenol, the acetaminophen is combined with a narcotic pain medicine, like codeine, or hydrocodone. Prescription Tylenol is typically for severe pain and is not given to kids because it is addictive. In fact, even adults should take it carefully as long-term use makes the person more susceptible to medicine abuse.

Tylenol is made by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The drug was first marketed in 1955 under the name of Tylenol Elixir as a prescription medication for kids. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Tylenol for OTC sales in 1959. Two years later, the company started retailing the drug for adults. Today, Tylenol is available for infants and children as well.

[ Read: Painkillers For Children ]

What Is Acetaminophen?

Acetaminophen belongs to a non-opioid analgesic group of painkillers. It works by blocking the enzyme that causes pain. However, it doesn’t have the ability to reduce inflammation and swelling like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen or Aspirin.

While researchers are unaware of the precise mechanism of Acetaminophen, they know it can alleviate pain by increasing the pain threshold. Your baby will need to experience more pain for him to feel it. And, it reduces fever by working on the heat-regulating center of the brain. Acetaminophen tells the center to lower the body’s temperature when it is elevated.

Tylenol Dosage Chart (Infant, Toddler, Children, And Teens):

Tylenol dosage for children varies based on age and weight. The dosage ranges from 300 mg to 1,000 mg. In 24 hours, you should not exceed 4,000 mg, which is the maximum dose for Tylenol or acetaminophen for adults. For kids, the dosage shouldn’t be more than five doses in a 24-hour period.

Importance Of Dosage:

Dosage is there for a reason. Pharmaceutical companies formulate medicines to ensure your little one get the right amount of the drug every time he takes it. Anything less than the recommended dosage will not work, and if you give more, it could be counterproductive. So if you are using OTC Tylenol, always read the label before you give the medicine to your child. Follow the instructions on the label.

Always try and use the measuring device provided with the product to make sure your kid gets the right dosage. If there is not measuring device, get one from your pharmacy. Do not substitute teaspoon for the device, as that is when the risk of overdosing your child increases.

Dosage Chart:

For children, who are 12 years or older, the recommended daily dose for Tylenol is 650 mg to 1,000 mg every four to six hours. However, the total dose within 24 hours should not exceed 4,000 mg.

For younger children, you can use weight or age to determine the right dosage. If your child is under two years, consult your pediatrician for the dosage.

Child’s Weight & Age Infants’ TYLENOL®Suspension Liquid 160 mg/5ml Children’s TYLENOL®Suspension Liquid 160 mg/5ml Children’s TYLENOL®MELTAWAYS®CHEWABLE Tablets 80 mg Jr TYLENOL®MELTAWAYS®CHEWABLE Tablets 160 mg
24-35 lbs
2-3 Years
5mL (1 tsp) 5mL (1 tsp) 2 Tablets
36-47 lbs
4-5 Years
7.5mL (1½ tsp) 3 Tablets
48-59 lbs
6-8 Years
10mL (2 tsp) 4 Tablets 2 Tablets
60-71 lbs
9-10 Years
12.5mL (2½ tsp) 5 Tablets 2½ Tablets
72-95 lbs
11 Years
15mL (3 tsp) 6 Tablets 3 Tablets

mL = milliliter

tsp = teaspoonful

Source: Tylenol

Is Tylenol Safe?

The accidental overdosing of Tylenol by parents has created doubts about the safety of this medicine. Of course, the manufacturer of Tylenol, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, states that the drug is safe as long as parents adhere to the recommended dose. However, the manufacturer is fighting over 80 personal injury cases in the U.S. relating to Tylenol’s safety.

The U.S. FDA states that parents and others should not exceed the prescribed dosage, as Tylenol can result in liver damage [1]. In 2011, the U.S FDA made it mandatory for prescription acetaminophen medications to have a ‘black box’ warning on the label, pointing out that the drug can result in acute liver failure. Also, the FDA has also limited the amount of acetaminophen in prescription medications to 325 mg per dose.

It is important to realize that most cases of overdose are unintentional and take place because people unknowingly take more than one medication containing acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. When it comes to kids, parents often make mistakes in measuring out the recommended dosage.

As a parent, if you want to give your child OTC Tylenol, it is best you first consult your pediatrician to get the right dosage. Make sure your physician knows about the allergies that your little one has and the medications (OTC and prescription) that he may be taking. This will ensure your child does not overdose on acetaminophen and have an interaction. And, if you give your kid the right dosage, there is no question about Tylenol being unsafe.

Risks Of Overdosing On Tylenol:

The main ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen. While the body eliminates a part of the medicine through your kid’s urine, a portion of the drug also goes to the liver. If you give your child too much acetaminophen, his liver will not be able to handle the overdose. This will result in life-threatening liver problems.

If your child exhibits the following symptoms, he needs emergency medical care:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain [1]

Usually, the symptoms manifest within 24 hours of taking the medication. If your kid has an overdose of Tylenol, doctors will hospitalize him. They will perform a blood test to check the amount of acetaminophen in his blood and then given him an antidote. The antidote has to be administered within eight to 10 hours of taking the medication.

Maintaining Safety:

As stated earlier, Tylenol is safe as long as you follow your pediatrician’s instructions or the dosage mentioned on the label. The medicine can do wonders with fever and body aches, and make your child feel more comfortable during his illness.

Here are few steps you can take to ensure Tylenol is a safe medicine:

  • Be aware of your kid’s weight and follow the directions mentioned on the bottle to give your child weight-based dosage
  • Use just the measuring device that comes with the medication. Refrain from using spoons
  • If your kid is taking any other medicine that contains acetaminophen, do not give him Tylenol
  • Keep the medicine out of your child’s reach to prevent accidental consumption

Schedule Of Tylenol:

For fever and accompanying body pains, give your child Tylenol every four to six hours. However, do not exceed five doses in a 24-hour period.

Tylenol for kids is not a scheduled drug. Hence, it is available in all pharmacies over-the-counter, and you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to purchase it. Make it a point to read the bottle label carefully before you give your child the medicine to avoid the serious side effects.

You also get Tylenol, which is a combination of codeine and acetaminophen. This is a schedule medication that the pharmacist will dispense only on a prescription.

Acetaminophen Side Effects:

Acetaminophen can cause a range of side effects. Knowing them will allow you to see whether you child requires emergency care.

Some of the common side effects that acetaminophen causes are:

  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting

Here is a list of severe side effects that require medical intervention:

  • Redness and peeling of the skin
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, face, throat, eyes, hands, and feet
  • Difficulty in swallowing and breathing
  • Pain in the upper portion of the abdomen
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Nausea
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding

If your child shows any side effect after taking Tylenol, stop the medication right away, and take your little one to the doctor immediately. Side effects like rash, difficulty in swallowing and breathing, and swelling point to an allergic reaction. On the other hand, if your child gets blistering and peeling of the skin, it is a deadly, but rare, reaction to acetaminophen.

Understanding Liquid Tylenol:

As parents, we prefer giving our kids liquid medication because it is easier for them to ingest it. Kids will often exhibit gag reflex, causing them to spit out tablets and pills. Liquid Tylenol, of course, is the go-to medication during cold and flu season.

However, if you keep liquid Tylenol at home, it is important to know that this medicine is now available in a single concentration. Hence, medications like Infants’ Concentration Tylenol Drop will no longer be available in 80 mg / 0.8 mL formulation. If you still have the older formulation, discard the bottle right away.

Approach your pharmacist and pick up liquid Tylenol, which is now available in 160 mg / 5 mL formulation.

There is a reason for this change in the formulation. Parents can get confused between infants’ and children’s Tylenol. Both have different concentrations. This poses a risk of overdosing. However, with a single concentration, the chances of overdose minimize. It also meets the requirement suggested by the U.S. FDA’s Drug Safety and Risk Management, Anesthetic and Life Support Drugs, and Nonprescription Drugs advisory committees [2].

FAQs On Tylenol And Acetaminophen:

You may have many questions related to Tylenol and acetaminophen, especially after learning how dangerous it can be for your little one if you give him more medication than needed. We, at MomJunction, have listed down the most frequently asked questions and their answers to help allay your fears and ensure you make the right decision when giving Tylenol to your child.

1. Is Acetaminophen Tylenol?

Yes, acetaminophen is Tylenol because it is the main active ingredient of the medicine. However, Tylenol is a brand name, whereas acetaminophen is the generic name for the medication.

Tylenol is made by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, an arm of Johnson & Johnson. The medicine is a pain reliever and can alleviate mild to moderate pain, including a toothache, backache, muscle ache, and pain due to a fever. Remember, Tylenol cannot help with swelling and inflammation. However, doctors recommend taking it if a person is on blood thinning medication.

2. Is Tylenol Acetaminophen?

Well, the answer for this yes and no.

Since the active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen, we can say Tylenol is acetaminophen. However, the U.S. FDA states there are over 600 medications, OCT and prescription drugs, that have acetaminophen as their active ingredient. But these medications are not Tylenol. Yes, they work to provide relief from pain and reduce fever, but many medications with acetaminophen are in reality cold and cough medicines.

3. Is Tylenol Ibuprofen?

No, Tylenol is not ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works by reducing the amount of hormones that affect inflammation and pain. It is effective for high fevers, mild to moderate pain, and swelling and pain brought on by sprains, strains, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis [3].

On the other hand, acetaminophen is not part of the NSAID drug group. It is an analgesic and antipyretic. It cannot help with swelling and inflammation.

While Tylenol and ibuprofen provide pain relief, they work differently.

4. Is Tylenol An Anti-Inflammatory Medicine?

As stated earlier, Tylenol’s active ingredient is acetaminophen, which reduces pain and fever. Acetaminophen does not have the ability to reduce inflammation. Hence, Tylenol is not an anti-inflammatory medication. It will be ineffective on swellings and inflammations brought on by sprains, strains, and bone disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.

5. How Much Acetaminophen Is Safe?

After reading how acetaminophen can cause life-threatening liver damage, you will naturally want to know how much acetaminophen is safe for you and your little one. Health experts state the maximum dosage should not exceed 4,000 mg in 24 hours.

The safe dosage of acetaminophen for  kids and adults is as follows:

  • For children under 12 years of age: 10 mg to 15 mg every four to six hours. The maximum dosage should not exceed five doses of 50 to 75 mg in a 24-hour period
  • Adults and children aged 12 and older: 650 mg to 1,000 mg every four to six hours. The total dosage should not go beyond 4,000 mg in 24 hours

It is important that you take your kid’s weight into consideration when dispensing acetaminophen. The amount of acetaminophen that you can safely give your child is dependent on the child’s weight. The medication bottle or packaging will have this information. So read it carefully and accordingly give your child acetaminophen.

6. How Much Tylenol Is Too Much?

Since the active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen, you need to make sure you don’t give your little one too much medication. The liver metabolizes acetaminophen and breaks it down into a toxic byproduct. So if you give your kid too much Tylenol at one go or over a few days, the toxin will accumulate in your child’s liver, causing severe liver damage. And, if you continue giving, it will lead to liver failure and death.

Kids should not be given more than 10 mg to 15 mg of Tylenol every four to six hours. Make sure the total dosage of the medication in 24 hours does not go beyond 50 mg to 75 mg. Anything more than this is too much.

Adults should not take more than 4,000 mg of Tylenol (acetaminophen) in a 24-hour period [4]. More than this is unsafe and could be toxic.

Remember you can end up giving your child too much acetaminophen if you give him Tylenol as well as another medication containing acetaminophen. Usually, cold and cough medications have acetaminophen as an active ingredient. So don’t give your child Tylenol if you are giving your kid cough and cold medicine containing acetaminophen. It will be too much for your little one’s liver and will result in accidental overdose.

7. Can Acetaminophen Get You High?

As parents, we always worry about what we give your child. You may think since acetaminophen relieves pain, it may also have to ability to give your child a high. Thankfully, acetaminophen cannot get you high as it is not a narcotic. It is a pain reliever and fever reducer and classified as an aniline analgesic. Of course, don’t forget taking too much acetaminophen can result in liver damage, necessitating liver transplant. Severe liver damage can result in death.

8. Is Baby Tylenol Safe?

Baby Tylenol is marketed as Infants’ Tylenol, and it is for babies. Even though McNeil Consumer Healthcare states that Infants’ Tylenol is safe, we suggest you first consult your pediatrician if your little one is under two years of age. Ascertaining the right and safe dosage for Infants’ Tylenol is by weight, and babies are notorious for having quick weight changes. So just your pediatrician is well-placed to let you know how much Tylenol is safe for your baby.

Remember giving your baby too much or too frequently can cause more harm than good. So keep a track of the amount and time of each dose so that you never exceed the recommendations of your pediatrician.

9. Is Tylenol A Fever Reducer?

Yes, Tylenol is a fever reducer. It is meant to make your child more comfortable when he is running a temperature. Tylenol is not a cure for a fever. To find the cause of your kid’s fever, it is necessary to visit a physician and get an accurate diagnosis.

[ Read: Is Ibuprofen safe For Kids ]

10. Is Tylenol Safe For Infants?

We have already mentioned that Infants’ Tylenol is safe as long as you consult your pediatrician for the recommended dosage. If your child is under two years, first speak to your doctor before giving Tylenol to your infant. The physician will take your baby’s weight into consideration and then let you know the safe dose. You should never exceed five doses in a 24-hour period.

11. Can Children Take Tylenol?

Yes, children can take Tylenol. However, make sure you give your child Tylenol that is formulated for kids. This medicine is available as chewable tablets as well as oral suspension. If the fever is causing your child to vomit, you can also give rectal suppositories. However, Tylenol does not make these suppositories. You will have to select another brand like FeverAll or Tempra.

12. What Is In Tylenol 3?

Before we go on to tell you about the ingredients in Tylenol 3, we would like to emphasize that this medicine is not meant for children. It is an adult-only medicine that is available on presenting a doctor’s prescription.

Tylenol 3 is a combination medicine that doctors prescribe for mild to moderate pain. The main ingredients are codeine (a narcotic pain reliever) and acetaminophen (a non-narcotic pain reliever). Tylenol 3 has 30 mg codeine and 325 mg acetaminophen.

13. What Is Tylenol 4?

Tylenol 4 is a more potent form of Tylenol 3. It is a combination medication that contains codeine and acetaminophen. It contains 60 mg of codeine and 325 mg of acetaminophen. Also, it contains pregelatinized and modified starch, powdered cellulose, magnesium stearate, and sodium metabisulfite. These ingredients act as preservatives and carriers for the active ingredients.

[ Read: Amoxicillin Dosage For Kids ]

14. Can You Take Tylenol With Alcohol?

No, you cannot take Tylenol with alcohol. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol, and it can cause liver damage when taken in large quantities. And, if you consume three glasses of alcohol per day and take Tylenol, you increase your risk of liver damage. You also cannot take Tylenol if you have alcoholic liver disease. It will damage your liver.

In Conclusion:

Now that you know about Tylenol and the right dosage for kids, make sure you use this medication prudently. Although the medicine is available over-the-counter, it doesn’t mean you can let your child guzzle it. It will lead to irreversible liver damage. So be a sensible and responsible parent and check with your pediatrician before giving your child Tylenol, even if it is for a mild cold and cough.

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