National Consumers League

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NCL Health Issues

'Double Check, Don’t Double Up' on acetaminophen this cold and flu season

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Over the counter and Rx drug bottles and pillsA bad cold or the flu can stop you in your tracks. Each year, Americans catch an estimated 1 billion colds, and up to 20 percent get the flu. And most of us turn to medicine to relieve symptoms; but it is important that you read the label on your medicines to check for acetaminophen and don’t double up.

After the first of the year, it seems like influenza (flu) season magically appeared, with a fierce intensity. Cases of flu are growing fast, and it is predicted that this season might be one of the worst in years.

More than 600 different over-the-counter and prescription medicines contain acetaminophen, including many for cough, cold and flu. It is the most common drug ingredient in America and can be in many prescription medicines taken by people who suffer from chronic health conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, or back pain. It can also be found in many different types of over-the-counter medicines taken by people with temporary conditions such as fever or aches and pains. Acetaminophen is safe and effective when used as directed but there is a limit to how much you can take in one day. Taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.

The National Consumers League is a member of the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition, which educates consumers and patients about how to use medicines containing acetaminophen appropriately and to help change behaviors that could lead to an unintentional acetaminophen overdose. The Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition’s Know Your Dose Campaign wants consumers to “double check” their medicine label so they don’t “double up” on medicines containing acetaminophen. If you take medicine to relieve cold or flu symptoms, check your medicine label to know if your medicine contains acetaminophen.

Know Your Dose is promoting four important steps for safe acetaminophen use:

  1. Check if your medicine contains acetaminophen
  2. Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time
  3. Always read and follow the medicine label
  4. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines containing acetaminophen.

If you are wondering how to actually read the label on your medication, check out this interactive Drug Facts Label. Here you can find out where to look to see if your medicine contains acetaminophen.

Learn more at www.KnowYourDose.org. Follow the Campaign on Twitter @KnowYourDose.