BOSTON, March 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Each year, overdoses of acetaminophen (sold as Tylenol and other brands) account for more than 56,000 emergency room visits and an estimated 458 deaths from acute liver failure, reports the March issue of the Harvard Women's Health Watch. And according to a new study from the U.S. Acute Liver Failure Study Group, acetaminophen-related liver failure appears to be on the rise.
Researchers at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle found that between 1998 and 2003, the percentage of acute liver failure cases attributed to acetaminophen nearly doubled, rising from 28% to 51%. Compared with study subjects who deliberately overdosed, those who did so unintentionally were more likely to have been taking two or more medications containing acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen is safe when taken as directed. Problems occur mainly when people take more than they realize. The Harvard Women's Health Watch offers the following tips for avoiding trouble:
* Read labels. For adults, the maximum recommended intake is 4,000
milligrams per day (12 regular or 8 extra-strength acetaminophen
* Use caution with combinations. Acetaminophen is found in many
over-the-counter combination medicines and prescription painkillers, so
check the labels to make sure you are not exceeding the recommended
* Alternate painkillers. If the recommended doses of acetaminophen don't
control your pain, talk to your clinician about alternating
acetaminophen with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as
ibuprofen or aspirin.
* Be careful about alcohol. The labels warn against using acetaminophen if
you have three or more alcoholic drinks each day. But not everyone
metabolizes alcohol the same way, so it's safer to avoid alcohol
entirely while taking acetaminophen.
Also in this issue:
* Diet and eye health
* Abdominal chemotherapy for ovarian cancer
* Compulsive hoarding
* A painless skin rejuvenation technique
* Cola drinks and hypertension
* A doctor answers: Does Paxil cause breast cancer? Do soy products cause
Harvard Women's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/women or by calling 1-877-649-9457 (toll free).
Harvard Health Publications
CONTACT: Christine Junge of Harvard Health Publications, +1-617-432- 4717,Christine_Junge@hms.harvard.edu