Skip to Content

Safe Use Of Acetaminophen, Ambulatory Care



is an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine used to decrease pain and fever. It is also found in cold, cough, and prescription pain medicines. An acetaminophen overdose can cause liver damage and become life threatening.

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
  • Upper abdominal pain and tenderness on your right side
  • Yellow skin, confusion, and sleepiness

How to safely give acetaminophen to your child:

  • Read the directions on the label. Find out if the medicine is right for your child's age and how much to give to your child. The dose for your child's weight or age should be listed. Do not give your child more than the recommended amount.
  • Use the measuring tool that came with the medicine. Do not use another measuring tool, such as a kitchen spoon. Other measuring tools do not provide the right amount of medicine.
  • Check other medicines to see if they contain acetaminophen. Do not give your child these medicines together with acetaminophen. The combined amount of acetaminophen may be too much. Acetaminophen may be listed on the label as APAP, Acetaminoph, Acetaminop, Acetamin, or Acetam.

How to safely take acetaminophen:

  • Read the directions on the label to learn how much medicine you should take and often to take it. Do not take more than the recommended amount.
  • Check other medicines to see if they contain acetaminophen. Do not take these medicines together with acetaminophen.

Who should not take acetaminophen:

Do not give acetaminophen to infants under 12 weeks of age before talking to your infant's healthcare provider. You should not take acetaminophen if you have severe kidney or liver disease. You should also not take it if you have 3 or more drinks with alcohol most days.

What you need to know about acetaminophen overdose:

Liver damage can occur if you take too much acetaminophen at one time or over time. You may not develop symptoms right away. Within 24 hours of an overdose, you may develop side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. With the second or third day, you may develop upper abdominal pain and tenderness on your right side. With severe poisoning, your skin may get yellow, you may become confused, and very sleepy. Treatment is most effective when started within 8 hours of the overdose.

What to do if you think your child or you took too much acetaminophen:

Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.