Paracetamol (i.e.: Panadol) is a widely available pain medication. It is an over the counter medication (available without prescription), and with proper use, is a safe and effective pain reliever.
When to use paracetamol?
In Australia, paracetamol is recommended as the first line for mild acute or chronic pain that is not relieved by non-pharmacological methods such as rest, reassurance, ice or heat packs.
Paracetamol can be used in children, but at a different dose compared to adults.
What do I need to know about paracetamol?
It is important to know that while paracetamol is available as a pain reliever, it is also an ingredient in a number of combination medications such as cold and flu remedies. Overdose and side effects can occur when taking more than one paracetamol-containing medication.
In adults, the maximum daily dose is 4grams in any 24 hour period. This should not be exceeded for adults and children aged <12 years.
In children, it is important to know that paracetamol can come in a number of formulations and strengths for different ages. It is important to read the medicine label carefully before giving paracetamol to a child, and to know the child’s body weight as the dosage is based on the child’s ideal body weight. Children should never have more than the maximum recommended dose of 15mg/kg every 4-6 hours to a maximum of 1 gram, and no more than 4 doses in a 24 hour period. When administering medications to children, it is important to measure liquid medications accurately using the syringe or device provided.
Remember to keep track of all medications given to children, and to keep medications well out of reach of children.
What happens if I misuse paracetamol?
Although paracetamol is widely available and is considered a safe drug when used correctly, it can cause a number of side effects, including:
Liver toxicity (this can be influenced by age, other medical conditions, alcohol use, nutritional status, other medications and genetics)
Allergic reactions such as rash or swelling
Blood disorders such as low platelets or low white blood cells
Kidney damage in large doses
How do I use paracetamol safely?
There are a number of ways to increase the safety of paracetamol, including:
Taking the recommended dose, and not exceeding the maximum dose
Ensuring you are not taking any combination medications that contain paracetamol
Seeking medical assistance if you experience and adverse reaction to paracetamol (not limited to those listed above)
Discussing with your doctor the use of paracetamol if you have any underlying medical conditions
If you have any questions regarding the use of paracetamol, or about products containing paracetamol, please speak to your GP.
NHS Choices 2016, Paracetamol, NHS Choices, retrieved 10/9/17, retrieved from < www.nhs.uk/conditions/Painkillers-paracetamol/Pages/Introduction.aspx >
NPS MedicineWise 2015, Safe and appropriate use of Paracetamol: closing the gap on consumer knowledge, NPS MedicineWise, retrieved online 10/9/17, retrieved from < https://www.nps.org.au/medical-info/clinical-topics/news/safe-and-appropriate-use-of-paracetamol-closing-the-consumer-knowledge-gap >
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