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It may come as a surprise that each year Americans catch approximately 1 billion colds, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 20% get the flu. This cold and flu season, 7 in 10 patients will reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to treat their coughs, stuffy noses, and sniffles. It’s an important time of the year to remind patients to double check their medicine labels so they don’t double up on medicines containing acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen is the most common drug ingredient in America, found in more than 600 prescription and OTC medicines including pain relievers, fever reducers and many cough, cold and flu medicines. It’s safe and effective when used as directed, but taking more than the maximum daily dose of 4,000 milligrams is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.
The Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition (AAC), a group of leading health, healthcare provider and consumer organizations, is dedicated to ensuring that patients take medicines with acetaminophen safely. The AAC’s Know Your Dose campaign reminds consumers to follow 4 medicine safe use steps:
1. Always read and follow the medicine label.
2. Know if medicines contain acetaminophen, which is listed on the front panel of packaging and in bold type or highlighted in the “active ingredients” section of OTC medicine labels, and sometimes listed as “APAP” or “acetam” on prescription labels.
3. Never take 2 medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time.
4. Ask your healthcare provider or a pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines that contain acetaminophen.
Order free educational materials from the Know Your Dose campaign to distribute in offices, clinics, or pharmacies about acetaminophen safety. For additional information visit KnowYourDose.org. Follow @KnowYourDose on Twitter.
Kathleen Wilson, PhD, ARNP-C is a board-certified family and pediatric nurse practitioner with 28 years of experience in providing care for patients of all ages. She has held positions in education, practice, research, administration and consultancies with extensive experience in adolescent health, behavioral health, management of children and youth with special needs and community program development. She practices in Tallahassee, Fla.