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Taking Too Much Acetaminophen A Common Cause of Liver Failure in Younger Children

A story at highlights the importance of being cautious in giving acetaminophen to youngsters, as overdosing is "the most common identifiable cause of acute liver failure in children," reports researcher Dr. Rod Lim of the Children's Hospital in London.

Overdosing with acetaminophen is often caused by varying spoon sizes, as well as liquid droppers that don't draw and feed accurate amounts.

Dr. Lim and his colleagues suggest the following to help prevent acetaminophen overdosing in younger children:

  • Better packaging to make it easier for parents to calculate and administer appropriate doses.

  • Keeping children's acetaminophen behind the counter so a pharmacist can provide parents with written guidance on what volume should be used based on the child's weight.

  • Doctors need to remind parents that infants' livers metabolize acetaminophen differently than adults, which can influence the risk of liver damage in young patients.

Overdosing is also a growing concern for adults who take acetaminophen through various over-the-counter drugs, the most common being Tylenol.

U.S. researchers interviewed 500 adults at clinics in Atlanta and Chicago, and found the following:

  • Close to 25 percent of those surveyed would overdose on a single over-the-counter acetaminophen product by taking more than the recommended maximum of four grams in a 24-hour period.

  • Five percent took more than six grams in a 24-hour period.

  • Just over 45 percent would overdose by combining products containing acetaminophen.

Beyond the issue of potentially causing liver damage by taking too much acetaminophen, it's important to recognize when acetaminophen isn't the best possible choice for pain management. I regularly find that clients hurt themselves further by taking acetaminophen when ibuprofen or another actual anti-inflammatory drug would be a more effective choice.

If you aren't sure about the fundamental differences in common pain relieving medications and when to choose which, be sure to review the following set of guidelines:

Understanding Pain Killers and Inflammation

Please consider sharing this information with parents and grandparents in your life.


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I don't even understand why acetaminophen is allowed on the market. Acetaminophen interacts with alcohol and can even destroy an adult's liver. Ibuprofen works fine, so why tempt fate?