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A component of the Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System (CMIRPS).

Medication Safety Tips

Spotlight on Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is most commonly known by the brand name Tylenol, but it is also found in many over-the-counter drugs (for example including Excedrin, Atasol, Midol, NeoCitran, and NyQuil) and prescription drugs (for example, Percocet and Tylenol #3). In fact, according to Health's Canada's online Drug Product Database, there are more than 400 products containing acetaminophen on the Canadian market!

In proper doses, acetaminophen is a safe drug, but acetaminophen overdose is a common cause of acute liver failure. The recommended maximum daily dose of acetaminophen for healthy adults is 4 grams or 4,000 milligrams—the amount found in eight Tylenol Extra Strength tablets. For children, elderly patients and alcohol users, the maximum dose is much lower. Since many cough, cold and "flu" preparations contain acetaminophen to control fever and aches, it would be easy to take too much acetaminophen if you didn't check the ingredients carefully. The safe dose is easily exceeded when consumers take a little extra of one product or take a number of remedies that contain acetaminophen.

So before you reach for that packet of "hot lemon" or other non-prescription remedy, be sure to check the ingredients. The best advice is to read every label carefully to be sure you know the contents of any product you use. Know the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen for you and your family members and carefully monitor the amount taken. When taking any medication, remember that anything more than the recommended dose is an overdose. If in doubt, ask your pharmacist!

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This information was adapted with the permission of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, using material originally published on the site

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