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Last updated : May 25, 2017

What is paracetamol?

Paracetamol is a pharmaceutical drug, which is use to treat a number of conditions including:

  • Mild pain
  • Fever
  • Strong pain (when combined with codeine)
  • Colds and flu (when combined with antihistamines and decongestants)1

Some people misuse paracetamol by intentionally taking more than the recommended dose in a mistaken attempt to get high, or as an act of self-harm.

Paracetamol is usually swallowed and comes in different forms including:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Suppositories
  • Soluble powders
  • Liquids1

Other names

Paracetamol may also be known by its brand or trade names. Some common examples include:

Generic name Brand names
Paracetamol Dymadon®, Lemsip®, Panadol®, Panamax®, Tylenol®
Paracetamol and codeine Panadeine Forte®, Panamax Co®
Paracetamol, codeine and doxylamine Mersyndol® and Mersyndol Forte®, Panalgesic®

Effects of paracetamol

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk – even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Paracetamol affects everyone differently, based on:

  • Size, weight and health
  • Whether the person is used to taking it
  • Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
  • The amount taken

Side effects

The most common side effects of paracetamol are:

  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Rashes and itching1

Children may occasionally experience low blood sugar and tremors, and feeling hungry, faint and confused after taking paracetamol.1

Overdose

If the dose is too high or the recommended daily dose is exceeded, an ambulance should be called straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Overdose symptoms, listed below, usually only occur 24 hours after taking the drug. An antidote can be administered if the ambulance is called soon after taking paracetamol.

  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
  • Liver problems
  • Seizures
  • Coma and death

Death from paracetamol overdose often takes a couple of days and is usually very painful.1

Long-term effects

Regular use of paracetamol may eventually cause the following effects. It’s best to discuss the side effects of long term use with a medical practitioner.

  • Tiredness
  • Breathlessness
  • Bluish tinge to fingers and lips
  • Anaemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Liver and kidney damage1
References

1. Upfal J. (2006) The Australian Drug Guide (7th Ed.) Melbourne: Black Inc.


Effects

treat cold and flu, treat fever, treats mild pain.