Potential Risks of Double Dosing This Cold & Flu Season

It has been estimated that 50 million Americans use medicines containing acetaminophen each week; it is the most common drug ingredient in America.[1]In fact, more than 500 over-the-counter (OTC)(e.g., Tylenol¨, Theraflu¨, DayQuilª/NyQuilª) and prescription(e.g., Percocet, Vicodin) medicines contain acetaminophen.

However, people may not be aware how prevalent acetaminophen is in both OTC and prescription medicines, which could put them at risk of taking too much.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers estimates that in 2016,30% of unintentional pharmaceutical errors involved double-dosing,taking more than one medicine with the same active ingredient, which is easy to do and can have serious consequences.

With cold and flu season approaching, the time is right to talk to a healthcare professional or pharmacist about how to treat cold and flu symptoms safely. As patients, particularly seniors, are taking an increasing number of prescription drugs, the ability to accurately interpret and follow medication labels becomes even more critical for ensuring proper and safe use.

Some examples of medications that contain acetaminophen can be found here.

What Seniors Need to Know to Use Medicines Safely
In today’s time-pressed world, people rarely slow down and read directions in full, often assuming they already know everything they need to. But failure to carefully read and follow Drug Fact labels can have serious consequences for your health.

Always read and follow the Drug Facts label
Check the active ingredients and the dosing instructions, and compare that against all the medicines you are concurrently taking.

And when in doubt to always talk to a healthcare professional before using any medicine, including OTCs.

Take ONLY 1 medicine that contains the same kind of active ingredient at a time
Taking more than one medicine with the same kind of active ingredient at a time can increase your chances of harmful side effects.

As an example, taking more than one medicine that contains acetaminophen at the same time, increases the chance of taking too much (more than 4,000 mg/24 hours) and this could harm your liver.

For patients with chronic pain who are taking pain medication daily, many of which contain acetaminophen,  check with a healthcare professional with questions or concerns before taking an OTC pain reliever, sleep aid, fever reducer or cold and flu medication that also contains acetaminophen, to determine what’s right for them.

Stick to the recommended dose and track the medications you take
It’s important to know the correct dosage and timing, and to not take more than the daily limit. The maximum dose for acetaminophen is 4,000 mg in 24 hours, but dosing differs from product to product.

Keep a log of all the medications you are taking, including prescriptions, OTC medicines, vitamins and supplements, making a note of the time you took a dose, how much you took and when you should take the next dose.

If you are unsure, ask!
Contact your healthcare professional if you have questions.

If you think you may have taken too much of an active ingredient, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) right away.