What Is Acetaminophen Used For?

Pain associated with backache, menstrual cramps, headache, and arthritis can often be treated with acetaminophen. It can also be used to reduce fevers. Certain forms of acetaminophen are approved for treating fever and minor aches and pains in children and infants. Occasionally, healthcare providers may recommend "off-label" uses for acetaminophen, such as for the treatment of migraines.

(In November 2010, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved an intravenous form of acetaminophen. For information on this product, see Ofirmev.)
 

Uses for Acetaminophen: An Overview

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is an over-the-counter (non-prescription) medication that is used as a pain reliever. In particular, acetaminophen is approved for treating minor aches and pains due to the following problems:
 
Acetaminophen is also approved for reducing fevers.
 

What Is Acetaminophen Not Used For?

Every bottle of acetaminophen warns of a few situations in which you should not take the drug. These situations include:
 
  • If a fever gets worse or lasts for more than three days
  • If pain gets worse or lasts for more than ten days
  • If swelling or redness is also present
  • If new symptoms occur.
     
These situations may indicate a more serious problem that should be evaluated by your healthcare provider. The medicine is not necessarily dangerous in these situations, but you should not use acetaminophen instead of seeing your healthcare provider.
 
Also, acetaminophen is not very good at reducing inflammation, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may work better for problems that involve inflammation (such as muscle injuries). This medication is not the best choice for people with liver disease, such as cirrhosis or liver failure, since it may cause further liver damage. If you drink three or more alcoholic beverages per day, you should not take acetaminophen unless your healthcare provider specifically recommends that you do so. Chronic alcohol use affects the way your body handles this drug (see Tylenol and Alcohol).
 
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Acetaminophen Drug Information

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