On February 13, 2003,  Health Canada issued a warning regarding acetaminophen, which is a pain and fever relieving medication very commonly used by adults.  See: Tylenol (TM) is one of the common brand names for acetaminophen. There are many others, as well as generic versions.

Acetaminophen overdoses were identified in a recent U.S. study as the No. 1 cause of liver failure in the United States. Most of those overdoses were unintentional.  There had been eight deaths reported to Canada's drug reaction monitoring program between 1998 and 2001 from acetaminophen overdose.


The Nature of the Problem

Acetaminophen can cause serious liver damage and even death when consumed in excess. This can occur when acetaminophen pain tablets are taken with cough medicine, decongestants and hot-drink medicines. For example,  a person might have the 'flu. The person may be taking the upper limit of the recommnded dose for acetaminophen in the tablet form, and then might accidentally take more acetaminophen "in disguise".

The overdoses happen when

As a result people can accidentally double or quadruple their acetaminophen intake. Almost every cold remedy has acetaminophen.

The small print on the packages listing the ingredients is often difficult for even the best eyes to read. One of the suggestions that pharmacists offer to customers is to watch for the words "fevers, aches and pains" on the packaging. Remedies that treat those symptoms will likely contain acetaminophen. That makes it unnecessary to take additional tablets of the pain killer.

Some seniors who are heavy drinkers already have compromised liver function in the first place, so their risk of liver damage from acetaminophen can be higher.


A Few Suggestions for Helping to Avoid Acetaminophen Overdose Problems


(c) Seeking Solutions,2002


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