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Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 25.04.2023 | 3 min read

Paracetamol is a common over the counter painkiller (also known as an analgesic). It is used in adults, children and infants to treat pain and fever in a wide range of conditions, including headache, toothache, earache, muscle pain, sprains and strains, period pain, arthritis, sore throat, post immunisation fever, colds and flu. Some examples of branded versions of paracetamol include Panadol, Medinol, Calpol, and Disprol.

Paracetamol can be dangerous if you take too much, so make sure you only take one paracetamol containing product at a time. It can appear in all sorts of products such as cold and flu remedies - so worth a careful look!

What formulations can the medicine be delivered in?

Paracetamol is available in tablet, capsule, effervescent tablet (dissolve them in water before swallowing), orodispersible tablet (they melt in your mouth), oral liquid (sachets and bottles), suppository (tablet in the bum) and injection (prescription only) forms.

How much should I take?

Paracetamol can be taken every 4 to 6 hours, no more than 4 times a day. The amount you can take depends on your age, this is listed below.

Adults and anyone aged 16+ (500 mg - 1 g), ages 12 - 15 (480 - 750 mg), ages 10 - 11 (480 - 500 mg), ages 8 - 9 (360 - 375 mg), ages 6 - 7 (240 - 250 mg), ages 4 - 5 (240 mg), ages 2 - 3 (180 mg), ages 6 months - 1 year (120 mg), ages 3 - 5 months (60 mg).

Babies aged 2 months (that weigh more than 4kg and were born after 37 weeks) can be given 60 mg, which can be repeated just once after 4 - 6 hours if required.

Who should not take the medication?

Paracetamol is not suitable for everyone. You should not take paracetamol if you have previously had an allergic reaction to paracetamol or another ingredient listed in the medication. Paracetamol should not be given to babies under 2 months old.

You should speak to your local doctor before taking paracetamol if you have liver or kidney problems or drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week on a regular basis, as it may not be suitable for you.

Diabetics and people with phenylketonuria need to be careful when taking liquid, effervescent tablet and orodispersible tablet forms of paracetamol as they may contain sugar or aspartame, it may be best for them to avoid these formulations.

Paracetamol can interact with other medicines such as warfarin, lomitapide, colestyramine and lenalidomide. If you take any prescription, over-the-counter or herbal medicines we recommend you ask your doctor or pharmacist to check they are safe to take alongside paracetamol.

Are there any side-effects?

Side effects are generally uncommon for paracetamol.

As with all medications, there is the potential for serious side effects, such as an allergic reaction. You should stop taking paracetamol and seek urgent medical attention if you develop a skin rash, shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in your chest or throat or swelling of your tongue, mouth, lips, face or throat.

This is not a complete list of side effects; you can find a complete list in the patient information leaflet provided with paracetamol. If you are concerned about any side effects, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

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