Be Medicine Smart about Acetaminophen Use: ‘Double Check, Don’t Double Up’ During Cold & Flu Season

The Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition (AAC), of which the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) is a partner, is reminding consumers that taking too much acetaminophen, a common drug ingredient found in more than 600 medications, can be dangerous. AAC is encouraging individuals to pay attention to drug labels. “Doubling up” on medications that contain acetaminophen can lead to liver failure. Acetaminophen is found in prescription pain relievers and in many over-the- counter (OTC) pain relievers, fever reducers, and sleep aids, as well as in numerous cough, cold, and flu medicines. While safe and effective when used as directed, there is a limit as to how much can be taken in one day. With cold and flu season here, the AAC wants to raise awareness about safe use of acetaminophen. AAC encourages consumers to take the following four steps to ensure safe use of acetaminophen- containing medication:
  1. Always read and follow the medicine label.
  2. Know if medicines contain acetaminophen, which is in bold type or highlighted in the “active ingredients” section of OTC medicine labels and sometimes listed as “APAP” or “acetam” on prescription labels.
  3. Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time.
  4. Ask a health care provider or pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines that contain acetaminophen.
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