Acetaminophen: How much is too much?

FDA warns of prescription pill combination

Have a mild headache, sore muscles or aching feet? We've all been there. Tiredly, we reach into the cupboard for a bottle of medication to relieve those pains.

One common remedy, acetaminophen, most commonly found in Tylenol, has been under scrutiny for some time. The widely used ingredient for pain relief now bears a warning by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA issued a warning for acetaminophen use in prescription pill combinations of higher than 325 milligrams.

The agency said in a statement Tuesday that limiting the amount of acetaminophen will reduce the risk of severe liver damage from an overdose, which can lead to liver failure, a need for a liver transplant or death. 

But the warning doesn't necessarily come from the disregard of limit -- it's from the unawareness of consumers. The drug is found in more than 600 medications, both OTC and prescribed. Not being aware of how much, or if the drug is even present in other medication, can lead to an overdose. 

In 2011, the FDA asked manufacturers to limit the amount of acetaminophen in prescription combination drugs. The deadline to do so is January 2014.

While more than half of the manufacturers agreed, some combination drugs with higher amounts of acetaminophen remain on the market.

Some OTC medications that contain acetaminophen are: Alka-Seltzer, Benadryl, Cepacol, Coricidin, Dayquil, Dimetapp, Excedrin, Midol, Nyquil, Panadol, Robitussin, Sudafed, Theraflu, Vicks, Zicam and generic brands.

Prescription drugs that contain acetaminophen (APAP) are: Endocet, Hycotab, Hydrocet, Lortab, Oxycodone, Percocet, Phenaphen, Tapanol, Tramadol, Tylenol 3, Tylox, Vicodin, Zydone and generic brands.

In August, the FDA announced a side effect of the drug. Known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome , the drug gives a severe skin rash that can be deadly. In addition, the risk of liver damage prompted the FDA to make a clear warning of the drugs use. 

How to avoid a mild overdose

Experts say that a lot of people either chose not to or don't know how to properly read a prescription label.

For prescription medications, the label will read APAP for pain killers that have acetaminophen present. KnowYourDose  gives information on how to read the label and what to do look out for. KnowYourDose is an acetaminophen awareness coalition aimed to bring education to users and health care providers.

If you've reached your daily intake limit of the drug, try natural remedies to alleviate your aches and pains.

Peppermint oil is known to help headaches. Rub a dime size amount on your temples and/or around your hairline. It's available for about $6 at drugstores.

Ginger tea: Crush up an inch of ginger root into boiling water and enjoy.

Capsaicin Cream: Dr. Oz says to rub this cayene pepper cream to the inside of your nostril. It blocks nerve receptors.

Pressure points: Rub the point between your thumb and index finger. This is known to alleviate nausea and headaches.

Try yoga or meditation: Stretching releases muscle tension and focus on breathing can help release stress, which may be the cause of your headache. Be sure to stretch your neck muscles if experiencing a headache. Meditation can quiet the mind of chronic pains, according to Health Magazine.

Hot or cold packs: Some people favor one over the other and its been said to help. Put a heating pad on that aching back or a nice cool pad on the backside of your neck.

Do you have any other home remedies that work for you? Comment below or tweet me! @jandreasik

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