Tylenol – it’s as prevalent and recognizable as anything you put into your body. But what’s not so recognized is that the active ingredient, acetaminophen, can pose serious health risks.
Some 56,000 emergency room visits and 26,000 hospitalizations come about every year as a result of an acetaminophen overdose. And an analysis of national mortality files showed that about 458 deaths a year are caused by an accidental overdose of acetaminophen.
Most of the time we don’t give over-the-counter medications a second thought. You have a headache? Pop a pill. Just grab a couple, not paying any attention to instructions or ingredients.
But these are drugs we’re talking about – you need to be aware of the potential dangers.
Don’t End Up in The Emergency Room!
Maybe the biggest risk acetaminophen poses to your health is when you mix medications. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs have acetaminophen in them. The problem is, they have a wide range uses. So, if you happen to have more than one health issue, and you’re taking more than one drug, you may be rolling the dice.
For example, say you have the flu. But you also suffer from sinus allergies. If you take Benadryl on a regular basis for your allergies, when it comes time to take NyQuil for a cold and flu, you’re mixing to medicines with acetaminophen. To make matters worse, if you have a headache or some sort of chronic pain, you may also be taking Tylenol on top of that. Now you’re taking three medications with acetaminophen!
And none of that even takes into consideration the possibility that you’re taking a prescription drug with acetaminophen in it.
Here’s a list of some of the prescription medications with acetaminophen in them:
Acetaminophen and Codeine
Phosphate Oral Solution and Tablets
APAP, Acetaminophen Uniserts/Suppositories
Butalbital, Acetaminophen and Caffeine Tablets
Capital®and Codeine Oral Suspension
Esgic®Capsules and Tablets, and Esgic-Plus™ Tablets
Hydrocodone Bitartrate and Acetaminophen Tablets, Capsules, Elixir
Lorcet® Tablets, Capsules, HD, Plus
Lortab® Tablets and Elixir
Norel Plus® Capsules
Oxycodone and Acetaminophen Tablets and Capsules
Pentazocine HCl & Acetaminophen Tablets
Phenaphen®with Codeine Capsules
Phrenilin®Tablets, Forte Capsules
Propoxyphene HCl and Acetaminophen Tablets
Propoxyphene Napsylate and Acetaminophen Tablets
Roxicet™ Tablets, Caplets, Oral Solution
Tylenol® with Codeine Tablets and Elixir
Vicodin®, Vicodin ES®, Vicodin HP® Tablets
Over-the-counter medications with acetaminophen:
Actifed®: Cold & Allergy, Sinus
Alka-Seltzer Plus®: All Products
Anacin®: Aspirin Free Formula
Benadryl®: Allergy Sinus Headache; Severe Allergy & Sinus Headache
Comtrex®: All Products
Contac®: Severe Cold and Flu Maximum Strength Caplets, Non-Drowsy Caplets, Day & Night Cold & Flu
Coricidin®: D Cold, Flu & Sinus Tablets, HBP Cold & Flu Tablets
Dimetapp®: Non-Drowsy Flu Syrup
Dristan®: Cold Multi-Symptom Formula
Drixoral®: Allergy Sinus, Cold & Flu Excedrin®: All Products
Goody’s® Powders: All Products
Midol®: Maximum Strength Menstrual Formula, Maximum Strength PMS Formula
NyQuil®/DayQuil®: Cold/Flu Relief Liquid and LiquiCaps
Pamprin®: All Products
Percogesic®: All Products
Robitussin: Cold, Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu, Multi-Symptom Honey Flu Liquid, Nighttime Honey Flu Liquid
Sinutab® Sinus: Sinus Allergy Medication Maximum Strength Formula
Sudafed®: Cold & Cough Liquid Caps, Cold & Sinus Liquid Caps, Severe Cold Caplets and Tablets, Sinus Caplets and Tablets
Tavist®: Sinus Non-Drowsy Coated Caplets
TheraFlu®: All Regular and Maximum Strength Caplets and Hot Liquid
Triaminic®: Cold, Cough & Fever Liquid, Cough & Sore Throat Liquid, Cough & Sore Throat Softchews
Tylenol®: Allergy Sinus Formula, Severe Allergy; Arthritis Pain Extended Relief; Cold Formula, Cold & Flu; Extra Strength Pain Reliever; Flu Formula; Maximum Strength Sore Throat Adult Liquid; PM Pain Reliever/Sleep Aid; Regular Strength; Sinus; Women’s Tylenol
Vicks®: Vicks 44M Cough, Cold & Flu Relief Liquid and Liquicaps Overdosing isn’t the only risk with acetaminophen. Listen to this staggering statistic: according to the Food and Drug Administration, from 1998 to 2003, acetaminophen was the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.
Pharmaceutical companies will defend their products, and rightfully so because the recommended dosages that are listed on a single medication pose a relatively small risk. It is our responsibility, yours and mine, to watch out for overdose when taking more than one over the counter medications in concert with prescription drugs.
My opinion: OTC drugs should not be used regularly in the first place. But if you must take OTC and prescription drugs, be aware that acetaminophen taken in large doses can cause liver failure and other health complications.