Acetaminophen Basics

What is acetaminophen?
When it’s used as directed, acetaminophen is a safe and effective pain reliever. Perhaps the most commonly known medication that contains acetaminophen is Tylenol®. Acetaminophen is also an active ingredient in over 600 prescription and OTC medications – including store brands and generic medications.
Are ibuprofen and acetaminophen the same?
No. While ibuprofen and acetaminophen are both active ingredients, and are pain relievers and fever reducers, they are NOT the same. They have different chemical structures and distinct side effects.

Acetaminophen reduces aches, pains and fever and is easier on the digestive tract than ibuprofen. Remember that in large doses acetaminophen can cause liver damage, which is potentially fatal.

Ibuprofen ALSO relieves pain, aches and fever and is slightly more powerful and longer lasting than acetaminophen. Remember that ibuprofen can irritate the stomach.

Why do people take acetaminophen?
Medicines containing acetaminophen are used to reduce fever and for the temporary relief of minor aches and pains due to:

• Headache • Muscular aches • Backache • Minor pain of arthritis
• The common cold • Toothache • Premenstrual and menstrual cramps

How can I tell which medicines contain acetaminophen?
Make it a habit to read the medicine’s label, regardless of whether the medicine is OTC or prescription. Acetaminophen – sometimes abbreviated as APAP, acet, acetamin or acetaminoph on prescription medicine containers – is listed in the Active Ingredient section of the OTC Drug Facts label.
What should I do if pain or fever doesn’t get better after taking acetaminophen as directed?
Ask your pharmacist, nurse or doctor what to do if pain or fever doesn’t improve. Never take more than directed or longer than directed.
When should I talk to a doctor before taking acetaminophen?
Have a conversation with the doctor or pharmacist if you are currently taking other medications that contain acetaminophen or if you are taking other medications and are unsure if they contain acetaminophen. If you’re not sure, ask first!
What is the liver’s function, and how does acetaminophen overdose affect the liver?
The liver helps you fight infections and also keeps your blood clean. It also helps you digest your food and stores a form a sugar that your body can use later for energy. Taking too much medication that contains acetaminophen interrupts liver function and can even cause death. Learn more about your liver by clicking here.
What should I do if I took too much acetaminophen?
Get medical help immediately, even if you don’t feel sick! Remember that symptoms may not be immediately apparent.
What is the connection between alcohol consumption and acetaminophen use?
Drinking 3 or more alcoholic drinks every day while taking acetaminophen can increase the risk of severe liver damage.