The Hidden Dangers of Tylenol


by Jen Juneau

THERE’S NO DOUBT that Tylenol is a household name. When you have a headache or other pain, it’s there to help soothe you. The Tylenol brand has been around for almost 60 years.

Tylenol is so common, in fact, that many don’t think twice about taking it, or giving their kids Children’s Tylenol for a cold. Millions of Americans use Tylenol products every week, and according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they bought 28 billion doses of Tylenol-containing products just in 2005.

But there are also risks involving Tylenol that you should be aware of before shaking those two little pills into your palm and tossing them back with a glass of water:

Overdose and Liver Damage

Accidental Tylenol overdoses are more common than you’d think – especially among people who take it regularly for chronic pain. The biggest reason for these overdoses is that many people may not realize they’re taking multiple products containing acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.

Two extra-strength Tylenol contain a total of 1,000 mg. Taking this dosage four times in 24 hours puts you at the limit of 4,000 mg; if you take anything else containing acetaminophen (e.g., Theraflu, Percocet) within that time frame, you risk overdosing.

Taking more than the recommended daily dosage of Tylenol is the No. 1 cause of acute liver failure in the United States and can lead to death. And if that wasn’t scary enough, people who drink alcohol are at an even higher risk for acute liver failure. Pregnant women can even transmit toxins to their babies’ livers through the placenta.

FDA Crackdown and Lawsuits

In 2011, as a result of liver-damage reports, the FDA began requiring all manufacturers of acetaminophen-containing products to add black-box warnings to their products, and to limit the per-tablet/capsule dosage to 325 mg.

Many people have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Laboratories (the J&J subsidiary that manufactures the drug). On April 1, 2013, a number of federal cases were consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

One Florida woman, Charlotte Lee Thompson, filed a lawsuit in 2012. She was rushed to the hospital after taking Tylenol for a few days and was hospitalized for almost two weeks to recover from liver failure caused by Tylenol poisoning.

Always make sure you read the label of any product very carefully, no matter how common it may be. If you aren’t comfortable taking Tylenol, speak to your doctor about whether switching to another medication is right for you.

Editor’s note: Jen Juneau is a content writer for She is dedicated to educating others on why it’s important to be aware of drugs and medical devices that could endanger their health.

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