Just because a medication is over-the-counter, does not mean you can forget about reading the directions. It is important to read the Drug Facts label for the correct dosage, how often to take it, and possible interactions or warnings with its use. If you have questions about the Drug Facts label, ask your health care provider or call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 before taking the medicine.
Many children’s varieties of OTC pain relievers are liquid and it is important to use the dosing cup or syringe that comes with the product. The use of a household teaspoon or tablespoon is never recommended as the amount can vary widely. If you don’t have the proper device, ask your pharmacist. It is best to use a child’s weight rather than age to determine a dose. Make it a practice to know or write down your child’s weight because this can be important information for medication safety. Ask your child’s pediatrician for a dosage chart or confirm dosage with a healthcare provider before giving.
Some adults take larger or more frequent doses of OTC pain medications to try and get a faster or more powerful effect. This can be dangerous and may lead to an overdose. For example, acetaminophen has a maximum daily dose of no more than 4,000 mg total in a 24-hour period. If more is taken, either intentionally or by mistake, there is a serious risk of liver injury. Quick medical attention is necessary for adults and children even if no early sign or symptoms are noticed.
Additionally, it is important to watch for hidden pain relievers in other common medications such as those for cold, flu, menstrual relief, sleep, or in prescription pain relievers. In fact, more than 500 medications contain acetaminophen in some form. If you want to review your OTC medicines, this worksheet is a great way to learn more: https://www.getreliefresponsibly.com/sites/getreliefresponsibly_us/files/compare_pain_relievers.pdf