Acetaminophen Safety: Why You Should Know Your Dose

This sponsored post is brought to you by the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition’s Know Your Dose campaign.

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Did you know that 7 in 10 Americans use over-the-counter medicines to treat fevers, headaches, and other unwelcome cold and flu symptoms each year? I’m not super surprised by that statistic, but I was pretty shocked to learn that more than 600 of the over-the-counter medicines we reach for to treat pain, fever, and cough, cold and flu symptoms contain a common drug ingredient called acetaminophen.

My mind was a bit blown when I found out that so many medicines contain acetaminophen. I mean, wow—600? It makes me want to rush to my medicine cabinet to check ingredients on the medicines I’ve been taking this week for my cough and sore throat!

I was under the mistaken impression that this drug was limited to a few name brands. Boy, was I wrong! This distinction is really important considering that there is a limit to how much acetaminophen you can take in one day.

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When you’re not sure if your medicines contain acetaminophen, it makes it quite easy to take more than you should. This is something that we all need to be more mindful of, when taking care of both ourselves and our infants and children.

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You’ll be happy to know that acetaminophen is safe and effective when used as directed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a maximum daily dose for adults of 4,000 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.

I have to make a confession. I haven’t given my best effort to reading medicine labels and ensuring that I’m taking only as much acetaminophen as I need.

There are times, especially when I’m struggling with cold and flu symptoms, that I’ve probably taken more acetaminophen than I should have.

Instead of worrying about the mistakes I’ve made in the past, I’m just really happy that I’m now more aware of how many medicines contain acetaminophen so I can be more mindful of checking the labels and limiting my dose to what is recommended by the FDA.

Steps you should be taking

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  1. Always read and follow the label.
  2. Know if your medicines contain acetaminophen.
  3. Take only one medicine at a time that contains acetaminophen. Double check, don’t double up!
  4. Ask your healthcare provider or a pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines that contain acetaminophen.

Of those who exceed the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen, most do so by either taking the next dose too soon, using multiple products containing acetaminophen, or taking too much at one time.

It’s important for everyone in the family to know their dose, and as parents, it’s particularly important that we are aware of proper acetaminophen doses for our infants and children. Be sure to visit KnowYourDose.org to learn more about proper dosages for babies and kids. You can even download a children’s dosing chart that you can print and keep with your medications for easy referral later.

As we enjoy the holidays and continue to press through the cold and flu season, it’s so important to be aware of the safe use of our household medicines at all ages. I’ve really learned something thanks to this information and I hope you have as well.

Happy holidays!

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