Teach Teens to Use Acetaminophen Safely and Appropriately

Teach teens to use acetaminophen safely and appropriately

As a teen influencer, make time to discuss how to use acetaminophen and all medicines safely. Remind teens to:

  • Always read the label to learn about the active ingredients in a medicine before taking it.
  • Ask a parent or guardian to examine the medicines in the medicine cabinet at home and to use a color marker to highlight acetaminophen as the active ingredient to make it easily identifiable if it is not already highlighted on medicine packaging.
  • Never take more than one medicine at a time that contains acetaminophen.
  • Never take more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen or take it for longer than directed on the label, unless directed by a healthcare professional to do so.

Survey highlights teen knowledge and attitudes about acetaminophen use

A 2010 survey* conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the National Consumers League explored knowledge and attitudes of teens ages 13 to 17, and adults about OTC medicines, particularly acetaminophen. For teens, the survey revealed a widespread uncertainty about how to take these medicines safely and a lack of knowledge about active ingredients in OTCs. Among the findings:

  • Two in three teens used OTC pain medicine within six months of the survey.
  • Twenty-one percent of 16- and 17-year olds were using OTC pain medicines several times a week, an increase from 13 percent of teens ages 13- to 15-years old who reported using pain medicine several times per week.
  • Seventy-three percent of teens reported not being sure or not knowing the active ingredient in the pain medicine they take, compared with 44 percent of the adults surveyed.
  • Only 16 percent of teens surveyed said they were very or fairly familiar with acetaminophen compared with 41 percent of adults who said they were familiar.
  • Nearly half of teens surveyed were unsure if it was safe to take two products that contain acetaminophen at the same time.

The survey also reinforced that parents have a positive influence on teens where medicine is concerned. More than two thirds of teens surveyed reported that they consult with their parents before taking OTC medicine. However, 24 percent of teens in the survey indicated they don’t consult anyone. Many teens surveyed—63 percent—said they always or often read the directions the first time they take an OTC medicine.

*Survey supported by a grant from McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNeil-PPC, Inc.

Source: Public Workshop on the Safe Use Initiative, November 16, 2010; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Pages 69-83. www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/NewsEvents/UCM235767.pdf