Tylenol is a popular over-the-counter pain relief drug for fevers and minor aches and pains. Its active ingredient is acetaminophen. Following the directions when measuring your Tylenol dosage is essential because overdosing may lead to serious complications, including liver failure.
What Are Uses for Tylenol?
People use over-the-counter Tylenol or generic acetaminophen (known as paracetamol in many countries) to relieve mild to moderate pain. It can help treat headaches, backaches, muscle aches, menstrual pain and toothaches. Because Tylenol is both a pain reliever and fever reducer, it also helps people find relief from both fevers and soreness from colds and flu.
To treat more intense pain, your doctor may recommend prescription strength Tylenol. For multiple symptoms, your doctor may prescribe Tylenol combined with other medications, including the narcotic cough suppressant codeine or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.
Common Tylenol Side Effects
Nausea is the most common side effect with 34% of people taking Tylenol reporting it. Vomiting is reported in 15% of cases.
People report constipation and itching in 5% of cases. Side effects are usually mild with the recommended dose of Tylenol.
Serious Side Effects of Tylenol
Rare, but serious side effects can occur with Tylenol use. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience unusual fever or pain, weakness, jaundice (yellow eyes or skin), bloody urine or discolored stools.
Taking too much acetaminophen, either because of overdose or long-term use, can cause liver damage and even death in severe cases. It may also lead to rare but dangerous skin reactions. Overdose may occur if you exceed the recommended Tylenol dosage when taking multiple medications that contain Tylenol.
New research suggests that exposure to pain relievers like acetaminophen during pregnancy may contribute to neurodevelopmental outcomes, such as ADHD and autism, in infants. As a result, most experts advise women to limit Tylenol use while pregnant.
Tylenol Types and Dosage
You can find Tylenol in various strengths and forms, including tablets, liquid and rapid-release gels. Stores sell Tylenol for arthritis and as an oral suspension for children and adults. It’s essential to find the right product for you and only use one medication containing acetaminophen at a time to prevent an accidental overdose.
If your child is younger than 2 years old, talk to your child’s pediatrician before giving them Tylenol. The appropriate doses for children 2 years old and older are as follows:
|CHILD'S WEIGHT||AGE||INFANTS' TYLENOL ORAL SUSPENSION 160 MG / 5ML||CHILDREN'S TYLENOL ORAL SUSPENSION 160 MG / 5ML||CHILDREN'S TYLENOL CHEWABLE TABLET 160 MG / TABLET||CHILDREN'S TYLENOL DISSOLVE PACKS 160 MG / PACK ACETAMINOPHEN|
|6 to 24 lbs.||0 to 24 months||Ask a Doctor||Ask a Doctor||Ask a Doctor||Do Not Use|
|24 to 35 lbs.||2-3 years||5 mL||5 mL||1 Tablet||Do Not Use|
|36 to 47 lbs.||4-5 years||---------||7.5 mL||1 ½ Tablets||Do Not Use|
|48 to 59 lbs.||6-8 years||---------||10 mL||2 Tablets||2 Packs|
|60 to 71 lbs.||9-10 years||---------||12.5 mL||2 ½ Tablets||2 Packs|
|72 to 95 lbs.||11 years||---------||15 mL||3 Tablets||3 Packs|
Children younger than 12 should take Tylenol according to their weight and age. They should not take more than five doses in 24 hours.
Teen and Adult Doses
Teen and adult Tylenol dosages are the same. It’s crucial not to exceed the recommended doses without speaking to your doctor first.
The appropriate dosages and directions for each type of Tylenol are:
|TYPE OF TYLENOL||PRODUCT FORM||DIRECTIONS|
|Tylenol Regular Strength Tablets||Tablets||2 tablets every 4-6 hours; do not exceed 10 tablets in 24 hours|
|Tylenol Regular Strength Liquid Gels||Capsules||2 capsules every 4-6 hours; do not exceed 10 capsules in 24 hours|
|Tylenol Extra Strength Caplets||Caplets||2 caplets every 6 hours; do not exceed 6 caplets in 24 hours|
|Tylenol Extra Strength Coated Tablets||Coated Tablets||2 tablets every 6 hours; do not exceed 6 tablets in 24 hours|
|Tylenol Rapid Release Gels||Gel caps||2 gel caps every 6 hours; do not exceed 6 gel caps in 24 hours|
|Tylenol 8-HR Arthritis Pain||Caplets||2 caplets every 8 hours; do not exceed 6 caplets in 24 hours|
|Tylenol 8-HR Muscle Aches & Pain||Caplets||2 caplets every 8 hours; do not exceed 6 caplets in 24 hours|
|Tylenol Extra Strength Dissolve Packs||Powder Packs||2 powders every 8 hours; do not exceed 6 powders in 24 hours|
Tylenol’s manufacturer lowered the maximum daily dose because of potential liver damage associated with high acetaminophen doses. The change reduced single-ingredient Extra Strength Tylenol products from 4,000 mg to 3,000 per day in 2011. However, if your symptoms or pain persist, talk to your doctor for individualized recommendations.
How Does Tylenol Work?
Researchers have studied how Tylenol works since its very first use in 1893. Despite 130 years of study, how it works still remains a bit of a mystery. Because Tylenol has multiple effects, it likely operates in the central nervous system and the brain, controlling the body’s temperature regulation.
Experts believe Tylenol blocks enzymes in the brain that trigger pain sensations. It’s also suspected that Tylenol blocks enzymes in the hypothalamus related to body temperature regulation.
In some acetaminophen products, the manufacturers list the main active ingredient differently. Because acetaminophen is in so many medications, such as cold and flu medications, it’s important to recognize these other terms. They include:
Although acetaminophen is the primary active ingredient, many Tylenol products contain additional ingredients, including magnesium stearate, modified starch, powdered cellulose and various colorants. For example, infant Tylenol suspension contains more than 10 additional ingredients.
From 2009 to 2012, there was a succession of recalls of Tylenol products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was involved in recalls involving tens of thousands of Tylenol products containing a chemical meant for treating wood. This chemical caused nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Quality control issues prompted the 2011 recalls involving the FDA. In 2012, McNeil, the manufacturer of Tylenol, recalled almost 600,000 bottles of infant Tylenol for faulty dosing systems, which could have put infants at risk.
Most recently, numerous Tylenol lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. The plaintiffs in these lawsuits allege that acetaminophen or Tylenol products used during pregnancy caused their children to develop autism spectrum disorder.
4 Cited Research Articles
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- Gerriets, V., Anderson, J. & Nappe, T.M. (2022, September 18). Acetaminophen. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482369/
- Shaughnessy, A. (2022, September 14). How Does Acetaminophen Work? Retrieved from https://medicine.tufts.edu/news-events/news/how-does-acetaminophen-work
- Kwok, J. et al. (2022, May). Analgesic drug use in pregnancy and neurodevelopment outcomes: an umbrella review. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763422000963?via%3Dihub
- Tylenol Professional. (n.d.) Dosage information for infants, children, and adults. Retrieved from https://www.tylenolprofessional.com/adult-dosage