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Avoiding Acetaminophen Poiosning

Filed May 16th, 2012 Laurie

Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is a popular painkiller that most people consider harmless. The drug is used to treat olds, fevers, headaches, muscle aches, arthritis or toothaches.

“People often think that acetaminophen is extremely safe because it is a familiar medication that is frequently used to treat pain. However, acetaminophen overdose is one of the most common drug poisonings in the world,” explained

Salem Community Hospital’s Director of Pharmacy, Keith Meredith, Pharm D.
But the daily recommended limit for acetaminophen has been lowered from 4000 mg to 3000 mg, in part because people taking other medications containing the drug can actually overdose. Acetaminophen is metabolized by the liver, and too much of it can damage the organ.

Someone who overdoses on acetaminophen may not notice symptoms until up to 12 hours later, when they might experience:

– Abdominal pain
– Appetite loss
– Coma
– Convulsions
– Diarrhea
– Irritability
– Jaundice
– Nausea
– Sweating
– Upset stomach
– Vomiting

“The antidote to acetaminophen overdose is N-acetylcysteine, which can prevent liver failure if it is given early enough. N-acetylcysteine is most effective when given within 8 hours of ingesting acetaminophen. For this reason, it is absolutely necessary that acetaminophen poisoning be recognized, diagnosed, and treated as early as possible,” Meredith advised.

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