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Health Knowledge and Encyclopedia
At your local Pearn's Pharmacy we can offer advice on most general health matters. You can also use our Health Encyclopaedia to provide you with the tools and links you need to pinpoint symptoms and get a full explanation of a suspected condition.
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Paracetamol is a medicine that is used to:
How it works
Paracetamol works as a painkiller by affecting chemicals in the body called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are substances released in response to illness or injury. Paracetamol blocks the production of prostaglandins, making the body less aware of the pain or injury.
Paracetamol reduces temperature by acting on the area of the brain that is responsible for controlling temperature.
Use in children
Babies and children can be given paracetamol to treat fever or pain if they are over two months old.
For example, one dose of paracetamol may be given to babies who are two or three months old if they have a high temperature following vaccinations. This dose may be repeated once after six hours.
Check the packet or patient information leaflet to make sure that the medicine is suitable for children and to find out the correct dose. When paracetamol is given to babies or children, the correct dose may depend on:
If your baby’s or child’s high temperature does not get better, or they are still in pain, speak to your GP or call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 4647.
Paracetamol is made by many different pharmaceutical manufacturers, with each giving their product a different brand name. In some countries, paracetamol is known as acetaminophen.
The packaging should state whether the product contains paracetamol or not, and how much. This will usually be in milligrams (mg). For example, one paracetamol tablet may contain 500mg of paracetamol.
Paracetamol with other medicines
In some products, paracetamol is combined with other ingredients. For example, it may be combined with a decongestant (a type of medicine that provides short-term relief for a blocked nose) and sold as a cold and flu remedy.
Paracetamol may also be combined with other painkillers in medicines, such as:
Types of paracetamol
Paracetamol is available as:
Some types of paracetamol, such as liquid forms of paracetamol, are aimed specifically at children.
Using them with caution
Paracetamol should be used with caution in people who have:
Ask your GP or pharmacist for more information.
Paracetamol has been used routinely through all stages of pregnancy to reduce a high temperature (fever) and relieve pain. There is no clear evidence that paracetamol has any harmful effects on the baby.
As with any medicine that is used during pregnancy, paracetamol should be taken at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.
Paracetamol is considered to be the best choice of pain relief for use when breastfeeding. The amount of paracetamol that is likely to pass into breast milk is too small to be harmful to the baby.
Side effects from paracetamol are rare but can include:
Paracetamol, taken at recommended doses, is not known to cause any adverse effects that might interfere with your ability to drive safely.
When two or more medicines are taken at the same time, the effects of one of the medicines can be altered by the other. This is known as a drug-drug interaction.
Paracetamol may interact with the following medicines:
To check that your medicines are safe to take with paracetamol, you can:
Warfarin is an anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medicine that is used to treat and prevent conditions such as:
If you take warfarin, prolonged regular use of paracetamol may increase its anticoagulant effect, making it more difficult for your blood to clot. This can increase the risk of bleeding. This effect is not thought to happen with occasional doses of paracetamol.
See the A-Z topic about Warfarin for more information about this medicine.
You should not take paracetamol with other products that contain paracetamol, such as co-dydramol, co-codamol and Tramacet. This is due to the risk of overdosing on paracetamol.
Take paracetamol as directed on the packet or patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine, or as directed by your GP or pharmacist.
If you forget to take your dose of paracetamol, check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. You may be able to take the missed dose when you remember, or you may need to miss it out completely.
Doses of paracetamol are usually taken every four to six hours. Make sure you allow the recommended time between doses, and do not exceed the maximum dose for a 24-hour period.
If you accidentally take an extra dose of paracetamol, you should miss out the next dose so that you do not take more than the recommended maximum dose for a 24-hour period. If you are concerned or you feel unwell, contact your GP or call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 4647.
If you have taken more than the recommended maximum dose of paracetamol, you must contact your GP or go to accident and emergency (A&E) immediately. Taking too much paracetamol may result in liver damage. This can cause nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting (being sick) that lasts around 24 hours.
In extreme cases, taking too much paracetamol may lead to:
If you need further advice about missed or extra doses of paracetamol you can:
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