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What is Paracetamol?

Paracetamol is a pain relief medicine. It belongs to a group of medicines called analgesics, and is used for the treatment of mild to moderate pain and feverish conditions, such as a headache, period pain and joint pain.

Paracetamol is an over-the-counter medicine and is available without prescription. You can also buy it online from Instant eCare.

For more information about paracetamol, consult the patient information leaflet.

How it works

It’s thought that paracetamol works by reducing the production of chemical messengers in the brain and spinal cord. These messengers are produced by the body in response to injury and other diseases, and they stimulate the area so that we feel pain to prevent us from causing further harm to the area.

By reducing these chemical messengers (called prostaglandins) paracetamol increases our pain threshold, so that the source of pain is still there, but we cannot feel it as much.

Before you take it

Do not take this medicine if you are allergic to paracetamol or any of the other ingredients contained within. A full list of ingredients is available in the patient information leaflet.

For more information, speak to your doctor.

Do not take paracetamol if you suffer with alcoholism, or kidney or liver disease. You should speak to your doctor if you are in pain and suffer with any of these conditions, so they can advise you as to which medicine to take.

If you suffer from headaches, taking paracetamol too often can make them worse.

Do not take paracetamol within one hour of taking cholestyramine. This is because cholestyramine can affect the way in which paracetamol works.

Paracetamol tablets can be taken while pregnant. You should take the lowest dose possible to manage your symptoms. Contact your doctor if your symptoms do not appear to be improving, as they will be able to advise you as to an alternative medicine.

It’s safe to take paracetamol while breast-feeding.

Paracetamol may interact with other medicines. You should exercise caution and talk to your doctor before taking paracetamol if you are taking any of the following:

  • Anticoagulants, such as warfarin or aspirin
  • Domperidone or metoclopramide to treat sickness
  • Cholestyramine to treat high cholesterol
  • Imatinib to treat leukaemia or stomach tumours

This is not a complete list of warnings or interactions. For a full list, consult the patient information leaflet or speak to your doctor.

Dosage Instructions

Always follow the dosage instructions contained within the patient information leaflet.

Never exceed the stated dose. If you are unsure of how to take paracetamol, consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

The recommended dose for adults, including the elderly and children over 16 years of age is one or two tablets, every four to six hours. Take a maximum of eight tablets in any twenty-four hour period.

Paracetamol can be taken by children between the ages of 10 and 15. We do not prescribe any medicines to anyone under the age of 18. Paracetamol is not recommended for use in children under the age of 10.

Swallow your tablets whole, with plenty of water. You may wish to break them in half to make them easier to swallow. Do not suck, crush or chew on your tablets.

Store paracetamol in a cool, dry place, away from heat and moisture. Keep it out of the reach of children and pets.

Common Side Effects of Paracetamol

Like all medicines, paracetamol has the potential to cause side effects. These are usually mild to moderate in nature, and do not usually persist beyond a few days. However, if these side effects become serious, you should stop taking paracetamol and contact your doctor.

Rare side effects can include:

  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Dark urine

Paracetamol may also cause an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction is a medical emergency and if you experience any of the following symptoms after taking paracetamol, seek immediate emergency medical treatment.

  • Swelling of the mouth, nose, tongue, throat or lips
  • Difficulty breathing or speaking
  • Hives or nettle rash
  • Tightness in the chest or throat

This is not a complete list of side effects. For more information, consult the patient information leaflet or speak to your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is paracetamol suitable for children?

Paracetamol is suitable for children aged 10 and over at a reduced dose. We do not prescribe any medication to anyone under the age of 18.

I am pregnant. Can I take paracetamol?

Paracetamol is safe to use during pregnancy at low doses. Take the lowest dose necessary to manage your condition and if your symptoms do not improve, consult your doctor. You may take paracetamol while breast-feeding.

Can I give paracetamol to my pet?

Paracetamol can be fatal to small animals, such as cats and dogs. Never give medicine intended for humans to your pet.

What happens if I miss a dose?

You are unlikely to be on a dosing schedule when taking paracetamol. If you forget to take it, simply take it again when you remember. Do not take more than eight tablets in a twenty-four hour period, and leave four to six hours between doses.

What happens if I take too much?

If you have taken an overdose of paracetamol, seek emergency medical advice immediately. Symptoms of an overdose can include nausea, sickness, liver damage or stomach pain.

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