Acetaminophen overdose can occur if an individual uses excess amounts of the medication. It is important to note that this medication is a pain medication present in both over-the-counter and prescription medications and an active component in Tylenol.
Acetaminophen is available in doses for infants, children and adults. The excess intake of acetaminophen which is more than 4 grams per day among adults can impair the liver. Many doctors usually advise not to use more than 3 grams of the medication in a day.
In severe cases, acetaminophen overdose can be deadly. Take note that this is common among children who might be given too much medication or accidentally ingest it. Once a child or adult is suspected with overdose, call the poison control center right away.
When to seek medical care
It is vital to seek medical care for the following regardless whether the child or adult is experiencing the symptoms:
- Child is 5 years old or younger who has taken at least 91 mg of the medication per pound of body weight within 8 hours.
- Child is 6 years or older who has ingested at least 91 mg of the medication per pound of body weight or a minimum of 10 grams total within 24 hours.
- An individual of any age has ingested at least 68 mg per pound of body weight or 6 grams total per 24-hour period or 48 hours or longer.
The indications of liver damage do not usually manifest for at least 12 hours after an overdose and includes the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Appetite loss
It is best to seek treatment if any of these are present regardless of the amount of medication that was ingested.
What are the causes?
When an adult is suspected with acetaminophen overdose, it often occurs since the individual does not feel any relief after using the recommended dosage and they take more.
Additionally, one might unknowingly use several medications that contain acetaminophen within a short span of time. A good example is doubling on the intake of pain medications followed by a cold medication that contains acetaminophen.
It is vital to check the labels to ensure that a double dose is not used. Remember that certain products might indicate the recommended daily dosage that is lower than 4 grams total. With this in mind, it is vital to carefully read the labels carefully.
The individual should discuss with his/her doctor regarding over-the-counter and prescription medications that were taken to ensure that excessive amounts are not used.
The initial move is to call for an ambulance or the local poison control if acetaminophen overdose is suspected. Call for help if you notice any indications of an overdose within 24 hours of using the medication. Keep the medication bottle on hand if possible since the emergency team might want to check the details on its formulation.
The doctor will test the level of the medication in the blood once the individual is hospitalized. Medications are given to diffuse the toxic effects of the drug. In some scenarios, stomach pumping or lavage is needed.
Most cases of overdose are managed successfully. An episode is usually fatal only if severe liver damage is left untreated.