Tylenol is an over-the-counter drug that is used to relieve pain and reduce fever. The medication comes in many forms, including tablets, caplets, gel tabs, chewable tablets, and liquid. It is usually taken by mouth every four to six hours as needed. Possible side effects of Tylenol include liver damage, allergic reactions, and ulcers or bleeding in the digestive tract.
What Is Tylenol?
Tylenol® (acetaminophen) is a non-prescription pain reliever and fever reducer. It is one of the most commonly used non-prescription medications. Compared to other non-prescription pain relievers, Tylenol is less likely to cause ulcers and to interact with other medications. However, it may be more likely to cause liver damage, especially when taken at very high doses or in people who already have liver damage.
This article refers to Tylenol that is taken by mouth for adults and children age 12 and older. For information on Tylenol for younger children or infants, see Children's Tylenol and Infant Tylenol.
Tylenol is made by McNeil Consumer Healthcare. Many generic versions are available, made by several different generic manufacturers.
How Does Tylenol Work?
Even though Tylenol has been around for quite a while, it is not entirely clear exactly how it works. It is known to work differently from any other non-prescription medication. Most other non-prescription pain relievers or fever reducers are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Both NSAIDS and Tylenol block the body's production of prostaglandins (naturally occurring chemicals that cause inflammation and fever). However, while NSAIDS block prostaglandin production throughout the body, Tylenol appears to do so just in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). It may also work by blocking pain signals from nerves or preventing such signals from forming.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: Approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed July 27, 2007.
Briggs GG, Freeman RK, Yaffe SJ. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. 7th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2005.
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