You have flu symptoms, so you’ve been getting some relief by taking a cough and flu medicine every few hours. Late in the day, you have a headache and think about grabbing a couple of acetaminophen tablets (Tylenol, paracetamol and panadol) to treat the pain. Stop right there.

You might not realize that more than 600 medications – both prescription and nonprescription (or over-the-counter, OTC) – contain acetaminophen to help relieve pain and reduce fever. Acetaminophen, either alone or in combination, is commonly used to reduce fever, and to relieve pain from headaches, muscle aches, menstrual periods, sore throats, toothaches and backaches.

Be cautious not to exceed the daily limit of acetaminophen when using a single medicine or combination of medicines containing this drug. Taken carefully and correctly, these medicines can be safe and effective. But taking too much acetaminophen can lead to overdose and severe liver damage.

Symptoms of acetaminophen overdose may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion and jaundice (yellow skin and eyes). Some people may have no symptoms after an overdose. Symptoms may take several days to appear. And even when they become apparent, these signs may initially mimic flu or cold symptoms. Severe cases may require liver transplantation and can cause death.

If you have questions about acetaminophen or any medication, contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Drug Information at 1-855-543-3784 and 1-301-796-3400, or

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