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How to Safely Give Acetaminophen


Acetaminophen (uh-see-tuh-MI-nuh-fen) is an over-the-counter medicine taken to relieve fever and pain. It's a safe drug when used correctly for a wide variety of problems, but taking too high a dose can make a child very sick. Overdosing can lead to liver damage and, in rare cases, even death. So it's important to know how to properly give the medicine.

If you have any questions about giving acetaminophen to your child, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Never give this medicine (or any other kind of medicine) to a child younger than 2 years old without getting a doctor's OK first.

What Is Acetaminophen Also Called?

Acetaminophen is the generic name of this drug. In some other countries, acetaminophen is known as paracetamol. Many generic brands of acetaminophen are available.

The most common brand name for this medicine is Tylenol®, but it is also sold under the names Panadol®, FeverAll®, and Tempra®.

What Types Are Available?

For kids, this medicine is available in oral suspensions (liquid form) and also chewable tablets. Chewable tablets are not recommended for children younger than 2 because they are a choking hazard. Rectal suppositories (FeverAll® or Tempra®) are available for children who have trouble taking medicine by mouth or can't keep medicines down due to vomiting.

Tylenol® makes Infants' Tylenol® ("drops") and Children's Tylenol® oral suspensions, as well as Jr. Tylenol® chewable tablets. Many generic brands of acetaminophen are available in similar forms.

Tylenol® and other brands that make infant drops used to offer them in a more concentrated formula, which was 80 mg/0.8 ml per dose. These drops were taken off the market because babies were getting sick after parents mistakenly gave too much medicine while using kitchen teaspoons or measuring cups from Children's Tylenol®. If you have Infants' Tylenol® or a similar product in the 80 mg strength, throw the product away and do not give it to your child. The new infant drops have the same concentration as Children's Tylenol® (160 mg/5 ml per dose).

Giving Acetaminophen

Refer to the following dosage charts for the correct dosage of acetaminophen. And be sure to:

Dosages By Weight

Doctors recommend using a child's weight instead of age when figuring out how much medicine to give. Before giving your child a dose, check the label to make sure the recommended dosage and concentration agree with the numbers below.

This table is based on doctors' and the manufacturers' recommendations and is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. If your child is 2 years old or younger, get the OK from your health care professional before giving the medicine. And always call if you have any questions or concerns about giving medicine.

Weight    Acetaminophen Infants' Liquid
  (160 mg/5 ml)
6-11 lbs.
(0-3 months)
   Ask your doctor
12-17 lbs.
(4-11 months)
   Ask your doctor
18-23 lbs.
(12-23 months)
   Ask your doctor
24-35 lbs.
(2-3 years)
   1 teaspoon (5 ml, or full 5-ml dosing syringe)

 

Weight    Acetaminophen Children's Liquid
  (160 mg/5 ml)
12-17 lbs.
(4-11 months)
   Ask your doctor
18-23 lbs.
(12-23 months)
   Ask your doctor
24-35 lbs.
(2-3 years)
   1 teaspoon (5 ml, or full 5-ml dosing syringe)
36-47 lbs.
(4-5 years)
   1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml)
48-59 lbs.
(6-8 years)
   2 teaspoons (10 ml)
60-71 lbs.
(9-10 years)
   2½ teaspoons (12.5 ml)
72-95 lbs.
(11 years)
   3 teaspoons (15 ml)

 

Weight       Acetaminophen Jr. Strength Chewables
     (160 mg)
24-35 lbs.
(2-3 years)
      Not recommended
36-47 lbs.
(4-5 years)
      Not recommended
48-59 lbs.
(6-8 years)
      2 tablets
60-71 lbs.
(9-10 years)
      2½ tablets
72-95 lbs.
(11 years)
      3 tablets

Date reviewed: September 2015


Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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