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Being Safe With Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is the most widely used pain relief drug in the country: It’s an active ingredient in more than 600 different types of medicines. But acetaminophen can be especially dangerous when you take more than the recommended dose. It can cause serious liver damage, which can lead to liver failure and even death. And you may be at higher risk if you have liver disease or have more than three drinks of alcohol a day.

So it’s especially important to check all labels carefully to make sure acetaminophen is not an ingredient in more than one drug you’re taking. On some labels, acetaminophen may be listed as “APAP.” And if you’re traveling, be aware that acetaminophen is called paracetamol in some other countries, including the U.K.

Being Safe With NSAIDs

NSAIDs are safe for most people when taken at the right dose for a short period. However, they can increase risk for serious stomach bleeding. The risk is increased in people with a previous history of stomach bleeding, who are older than 60, who drink three or more alcoholic drinks a day, or if you are taking blood thinners or corticosteroids such as prednisone.

NSAIDs may also increase the risk for heart attack and stroke. Children should not take aspirin products because they can lead to Reye's syndrome, a rare but life-threatening condition.

In Case of Overdose

If you think you’ve taken too much of any OTC pain reliever, call your doctor or seek medical help right away. Signs and symptoms may not be noticeable right away. Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Burning in the throat or stomach
  • Pain in the stomach
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Fast eye movements
  • Tiredness
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Confusion

4 Simple Rules for Drug Safety

OTC pain relievers are meant to help you, and as long as you take them as directed, they can provide safe and effective pain and fever relief. To prevent an overdose of any OTC medication, follow these four safety tips:

  • Read all labels.
  • Always take medicine as directed. Never take medicine in larger doses or for a longer time than directed.
  • Talk with your doctor before changing the dose of any medicines.
  • If you have any questions about how to use a pain reliever or how much to take, play it safe and talk with your doctor or pharmacist first.

Choosing an OTC Pain Reliever

What you need to know to make a safe and effective choice.
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