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WASHINGTON — As cold and flu season kicks into high gear, the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition on Tuesday issued a nationwide safety message urging consumers to double-check their medicine labels so they don’t double-up on medicines that contain acetaminophen when treating winter illnesses.
“It is especially important for patients who regularly use medicines with acetaminophen for pain conditions such as arthritis or headaches, to ‘Double Check, Don’t Double Up’ before taking a cold or flu medicine that also contains acetaminophen,” stated pharmacist Phil LaFoy, co-owner of Blount Discount Pharmacy in Tennessee and member of the National Community Pharmacists Association, a founding organization of the AAC. “Educating patients on safe acetaminophen use is the first step in preventing liver damage.”
“Consumers should be diligent about reading their medicine labels, knowing the ingredients in their medicines and following dosing directions when taking all medicines—especially during cold and flu season when medicines for coughs and stuffy noses are commonly layered on top of other medications they may be taking,” said Kathleen Wilson, nurse practitioner and member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, also a founding organization of the AAC. “Because acetaminophen is in many pain relievers as well as medicines to treat cold and flu symptoms, I remind my patients to double check medicine labels and avoid taking two medicines that contain acetaminophen so they don’t exceed the daily limit when taking multiple medicines.”
Acetaminophen is found in more than 600 different medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers, fever reducers, sleep aids and numerous cough, cold and flu medicines. Each week, approximately 23% of U.S. adults use acetaminophen. It is safe and effective when used as directed, but there is a limit to how much can be taken in one day. Taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.
Americans suffer from an estimated one billion colds each year, and as many as 20% will get the flu. Seven in 10 people will reach for over-the-counter medicines, many of which contain acetaminophen, to treat fevers, sinus headaches and other unwelcome cold and flu symptoms.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends taking no more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.
The Know Your Dose campaign is an initiative of the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition. Coalition members include the Alliance for Aging Research, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, AANP, National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation, American Academy of Physician Assistants, NCPA, National Consumers League, American Pharmacists Association, National Council on Patient Information and Education, and CHPA Educational Foundation. Advisors to the Coalition include the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA.