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Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Poisoning

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Self-Care at Home

If you or a member of your household has taken or may have taken an overdose of acetaminophen, take quick action.

  • If the person is unconscious or not breathing, call 911 immediately for emergency medical services.
  • If the person is awake and breathing without symptoms, call your local poison control center or the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (800) 222-1222.

The following information is helpful for both medical personnel and a poison control center:

  • All medication that the person has taken, both prescribed and nonprescribed (have the bottles close)
  • All medications that are available in the house, prescribed and nonprescribed
  • The time that the person took the medication

 

Medical Treatment

Treatment in the emergency department depends on the condition of the person and any other medications taken.

If someone is suspected of having taken an overdose but has no symptoms, the doctor will begin the following treatment:

  • Emptying of the stomach. In the very few cases in which a person comes to the hospital minutes after taking the overdose, the doctor may attempt to empty the stomach by running a tube through the mouth into the stomach.
  • Activated charcoal. Activated charcoal should  be given by mouth within 4 hours of the overdose to bind any drug remaining in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC). NAC is the antidote for toxic acetaminophen overdose. It is generally given by mouth. The medication has a foul odor but may be mixed with juice or other flavorings to make it taste better. If the person cannot take NAC by mouth, a tube may be placed through the mouth and into the stomach to help administer it. If giving NAC by this method is not possible, the doctor may give it by IV. NAC should be given within 8 hours of ingestion, and is generally given for 20 hours to 72 hours.

 

Next Steps

Follow-up

After being discharged from the hospital or doctor's office, you may be asked to return for an examination or blood tests to check the condition of your liver and your general health. Your doctor may instruct you to avoid alcohol and certain medications.

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