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How Much Acetaminophen Is Too Much?

Acetaminophen is one of the most widely used medications in the United States. It can also be found in other medications for cough and cold, sleep, and pain. It’s important that you limit how much acetaminophen you take to avoid toxic overdose, liver failure, or even death.

Understanding acetaminophen

There’s a risk of taking any medication. The FDA has taken steps to decrease that risks for patients. In January 2011, the FDA asked manufacturers to decrease the amount of acetaminophen in prescription medicines. Some combination prescription medications that contain acetaminophen once contained up to 750 milligrams of acetaminophen per pill.

The good news is that as of January 2014, prescription medicines can only contain a maximum of 325 milligrams of acetaminophen per pill.

Currently, the per-pill limit of 325 milligrams only applies to prescription drug products. You can check the amount of acetaminophen in your medicines in two ways:

  1. For medication purchased at a drug store, acetaminophen is listed in the "Drug Facts" section of the package.
  2. For prescription medications, the label will typically say "APAP," which is an abbreviation for acetaminophen.

Dosage guidelines

Acetaminophen is generally safe and works well to reduce fever, aches, and pains. However, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Take a close look at your medicines and make sure you aren't taking too much acetaminophen.

The recommended dosage for acetaminophen is based on someone’s age and weight, and the frequency of taking it.

  • Example: For a healthy adult weighing 150 pounds, the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen is 4,000 milligrams.

You can refer to this table to help determine how many pills to safely take at a time and how often.

Acetaminophen and children

Before giving your child any medication, talk to your doctor about the proper dosage. Giving the wrong amount, or dose, of medicine is one of the biggest problems parents have when giving acetaminophen to children, according to Follow these clear dosage guidelines for kids.