Paracetamol: Everything You Need to Know

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Paracetamol is a relatively safe painkiller that poses few side effects when the right dosage is followed. But what exactly is the right dosage?

Chances are when you are racked by pain, say a headache or toothache; you’ll reach over for a drug to relieve the pain. Pain is not a bad thing. As Ida Walker, author of Painkillers: Prescription Dependency puts it, “Pain is a necessary part of human life. It’s a warning signal, indicating that something isn’t right. It logically follows then, that most people have some form of painkiller in their medicine cabinet. After all, almost everyone has a headache or other assorted ache or pain that needs relief.”

But how sure are you that you’re taking it the right way or that you are taking the right type of painkiller? A survey by Panadol showed that one in three people take the first available medicine. Studies show that sometimes we use them wrong. In the US for example, research shows that the use and overdose of acetaminophen (another name for paracetamol), rises in the flu and cold season.

The Dangers of Taking Too Much Painkillers

Paracetamol is commonly used to relive moderate and mild pain and to lower high temperature. (It is the most commonly used, in fact.) It is also the main active ingredient found in other over-the-counter and prescription medicine such as those used to treat flu and allergies.

Proper care should be taken when taking paracetamol. Over-the-counter medications are relatively safe when the right dosage is followed. But you can be tempted to double your dosage when the pain is too much. Sometimes you can overdose without even knowing, especially when you combine painkillers with other drugs that already have paracetamol as an active ingredient, too much of which can harm the liver. During pregnancy, according to a long-term study by University of California – Los Angeles, taking acetaminophen was associated with a higher risk in children of Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder and Hyperkinetic Disorders. Research also shows that prolonged use can lower testosterone production in unborn baby boys and increase risk for multiple behavioural problems in children.

When and How to Take Them

According to The World Health Organization, adults should take 0.5 to 1 gram of the drug and repeated, as necessary, every four to six hours to a maximum of 4 g daily, adding that treatment should not be continued for more than 5 days unless you’ve been advised so by your doctor.

Read the label or leaflet careful before taking paracetamol. There’s usually advice on all medications, on which foods or medications to avoid. Generally, you’re not supposed to take paracetamol if you’re allergic to it, and you should consult your doctor first if you have any condition affecting the liver or kidneys or are taking other medications.

See a doctor when the pain goes longer than three days, becomes worse, affects normal activities, keeps you up at night or comes with other symptoms such as fever and vomiting.

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