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3 Ways to Avoid Unintentional Acetaminophen Overdose

Acetaminophen overdose is the deadliest over the counter drug, resulting in over 1 500 deaths in the United States between 2001 and 2010 [1]. Since this drug is well-known as an over-the-counter painkiller, people tend to forget to heed the side effects, especially when they have become accustomed to taking this drug regularly. Here are some scenarios where an unintentional overdose is possible:

  1. Getting too much acetaminophen from different sources:

This usually occurs when patients are taking multiple medications at the same time. It is highly possible that there is acetaminophen in other medications when one is treating for chronic pain relief. So taking another dose of Tylenol on top of the prescription medication can lead to an unintended overdose.
 
Prevention Method:
It is a wise idea to consult with your doctor and make sure that the total dose of acetaminophen does not exceed the recommended amount according to your age. Next, make sure that the intervals in between your doses are correct.
 

  1. Taking an incorrect dose:

It is common that people lose track of how much acetaminophen they have already taken.  Taking a stronger version of the pill or taking too many pills together at the same time can lead to too much acetaminophen in your system.
 
Prevention Method:
If you are taking multiple medications at the same time it is a good idea to get a pill organizer or set alarms or reminders on when to take your dose. This way you can avoid losing count of how many pills you have already taken.
 

  1. Taking acetaminophen in an extended release form:

Taking an extended release form of acetaminophen means that this pill dissolves in your body over time, as the drug gets released slowly in your bloodstream. This can be beneficial in the sense that you get the amount of acetaminophen in less frequent intervals. However, some people who look for more pain relief either take too many extended release pills, or combine them with instant relief pills, which increases the risk of having too much acetaminophen in your body.
 
Prevention Method:
It is important that you consult with a pharmacist or a physician to determine if the extended release form of the pill is a good option in your case. In order for the pill to do its work effectively, it is vital that the pill is not tampered with. Chewing, crushing or dissolving the pill are all ways that hinder its ability to function properly.
 
[1] Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/tylenol-overdose_n_3976991.html
 

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