Liver Poisoning becomes more Common—What You Need to Know to Prevent It
say you have the flu. You aren’t eating much, because you don’t feel like it.
You start out taking Tylenol, which contains acetaminophen, to relieve your
symptoms, but you still don’t feel very good. So you add an over-the-counter flu
medication. You keep taking both drugs for nearly a week. Why not? Tylenol is
you don’t realize is that you’re putting yourself at risk of serious liver
poisoning. There’s acetaminophen not only in your Tylenol, but also in your flu
medication. It gradually builds up, until suddenly, it can result in the need
for a liver transplant. It can also cause permanent brain damage. In some cases,
liver poisoning is fatal.
number of accidental liver poisonings resulting from taking too much
acetaminophen is on the rise in the
Many people are aware that the popular pain reliever called Tylenol contains
acetaminophen. They also may have heard or read that too much acetaminophen is
poisonous to the liver. But what they often don’t know is that acetaminophen is
also found in other common over-the-counter drug products.
Common medications containing acetaminophen
Acetaminophen is found—in varying doses—in many cold remedies and combination
pain relievers. Here are some of them:
Midol Teen Formula
Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine
NyQuil Cold and Flu
also found in some prescription narcotics, such as
acetaminophen is safe?
recommended maximum dose of acetaminophen for adults is 4 grams per day, or
4,000 milligrams. Here’s how easy it is to go over that number:
Each Extra Strength Tylenol tablet contains 500 milligrams of acetaminophen.
It’s easy to take 4,000 milligrams of these in one day.
One dose of Tylenol Cold and Flu Severe contains 1,000 milligrams.
One tablet of Midol Teen formula contains 500 milligrams
Arthritis-strength versions of acetaminophen contain 650 milligrams
can see how important it is to keep track of the acetaminophen you’re taking.
Symptoms of liver failure
early signs of liver failure include
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
the poisoning becomes more severe and progresses to liver failure, symptoms
Abdominal pain and tenderness
Swelling of the liver
Blood tests that reveal abnormal liver enzymes
During the final stages of liver poisoning, the skin and whites of the eyes
become yellow due to jaundice. Kidney failure, abnormal bleeding and swelling in
the brain may occur.
Risk is low, if drug is taken properly
reason that people take acetaminophen without worrying is that they’ve been led
to believe that it’s got a high safety profile. Other pain relievers have been
pulled from the market. Acetaminophen—taken in the right dose—is safer for
children and teenagers than aspirin. And it’s less likely to cause stomach or
kidney problems in adults than aspirin.
there are certain conditions and behaviors that make you more vulnerable to
liver poisoning by acetaminophen:
Drinking three or more alcoholic drinks per day (Some researchers believe that
binge drinking can also make you vulnerable.)
Going without much food for several days
Being a small woman
Being obese (Extra fat in the liver creates extra vulnerability)
also should know that you may be able to take higher-than-recommended levels of
acetaminophen for an extended period of time without any problem, and then
suddenly, your liver isn’t able to manage the higher level, causing it to fail.