A World of Conditions, Hundreds of Medicines, One Ingredient: Acetaminophen. Use it Safely.


DeAnn Mullins, BPharm, CDE

Editor’s Note: This spring, NCPA is partnering with the Know Your Dose campaign to remind consumers who suffer from chronic pain about the proper use of medicines that contain acetaminophen. A certified diabetes educator, DeAnn Mullins owns Mullins Pharmacy, WeCare Wellness, and the WeCare Diabetes Education Program in Lynn Haven, Fla. She is a member of the Florida Board of Pharmacy and graduated from Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy.

As the most common drug ingredient in America, acetaminophen can be found in over 600 medicines, including many prescription and over-the-counter medicines. With a world of conditions and hundreds of medicines, it’s important to educate patients and caregivers about the proper use of medicines containing acetaminophen. When used as directed, acetaminophen is safe and effective. But there is a limit to how much you can take in one day. Taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.

This spring, we’re asking healthcare providers to remind all patients and caregivers to: 1) always read and follow the labels on their medicines; 2) know if their medicine contains acetaminophen; and 3) never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time. The Know Your Dose campaign offers a short list of helpful health tips to share with your patients and community.

Medicine Safety Tips

  • Always read and follow the label on ALL medicines. Whether you are taking medicine yourself or giving it to someone else, make sure you read and follow the instructions on the label.
  • Know if your medicine contains acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is in more than 600 prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines. Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time or take more than is directed.
  • Look for acetaminophen abbreviations on prescription labels. The ingredient name acetaminophen is not always spelled out entirely. It is sometimes listed as “APAP,” “acetam,” or other shortened versions of the word.
  • Know Your Dose. Acetaminophen is safe and effective, but there is a limited amount you can take in one day. Taking more acetaminophen than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.
  • Keep medicines in their original packaging. Don’t transfer prescription or over-the-counter medicines to a new container, as the packaging contains important safety and dosing information.
  • Don’t mix alcohol and medicine. If you drink three or more alcoholic beverages every day, ask your healthcare provider before you take medicines containing acetaminophen.
  • Check each medicine for shared ingredients. When you are experiencing more than one ailment (fever, back pain, headache) make sure you check for acetaminophen on the label of each medicine you take. Medicines designed to address multiple symptoms, called combination medicines, often contain acetaminophen. Don’t take a combination medicine containing acetaminophen with a single-ingredient medicine containing acetaminophen at the same time to avoid an overdose.
  • Store all medicine out of sight and reach of children. Make sure you keep any and all medicines up at a height children can’t reach and away from view.

Visit KnowYourDose.org to order free educational materials to display in your office, pharmacy, or waiting room to help educate patients and consumers on how to safely use medicines that contain acetaminophen. The site also offers a discussion guide to use as a quick reference and reminder when speaking with patients and consumers, as well as helpful tools for the public including a list of common medicines that contain acetaminophen, tips on reading over-the counter and prescription labels, and more.

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