Tylenol Liver Risks from Acetaminophen Overdose During Flu Season

Harvey Kirk

By Harvey Kirk
Posted January 21, 2013


As the nation faces one of the worst flu seasons in years, health experts are warning consumers to be careful about the risk of liver damage from Tylenol or acetaminophen overdose, as many cold and flu medications contain the active pharmaceutical ingredient, which could pose serious liver risks when taken at high doses.

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and many other over-the-counter and prescription pain medications, which often goes unnoticed by consumers, resulting in people unknowingly overdosing on acetaminophen.

Side effects of acetaminophen can increase the risk of liver damage, and the medication is one of the leading causes of liver failure in the United States, resulting in more than 50,000 emergency room visits, 25,000 hospitalizations for liver problems and over 450 deaths each year.

The Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition (AAC) is warning people to know their drug and know what levels of acetaminophen they are taking by reading the labels and counting the total amount of daily dose of acetaminophen they could be ingesting. According to Dr. Angela Golden, president of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners:

Adults typically suffer from two to four colds per year, and children six to eight colds. During cold and flu season, consumers who are taking a prescription medicine that contains acetaminophen should also check the labels of any over-the-counter medicine they take. Many cold and flu medicines contain acetaminophen, so I remind my patients to always double check the label so they don’t exceed the daily limit when taking multiple medicnes.

Acetaminophen is the most common drug ingredient in the U.S., found in more than 600 different drugs, many of them sold over-the-counter. It is the drug most associated with liver injury. The National Institutes of Health recommend a maximum daily dosage of 4,000 mg of acetaminophen in one day.

According to a study published last year in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology many individuals suffer acetaminophen overdose that goes untreated, increasing the liver risks. The research highlights how individuals commonly suffer accidental or small acetaminophen overdoses, which may actually increase the risk of liver damage because such “staggered overdoses” may not be detected during blood tests.

Symptoms of acetaminophen liver problems could include:

  • Jaundice
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Confusion and Disorientation
  • Abdomen Pain
  • Problems Concentrating
  • Excessive Sleepiness

The Tylenol liver risks could be worsened this year by a particularly rough flu season that has exceeded most expectations due to its virulence. According to the CDC, 29 states are now reporting near-record levels of flu activity and 41 states are reporting widespread geographic influenza activity, meaning that not only are a lot of people getting sick, but that those illnesses are spread widely nationwide and not just in a few concentrated areas.

This is likely to result in an increase in the use of acetaminophen-containing cold and flu medications both in hospitals and at home.


The acetaminophen lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are investigating potential lawsuits for individuals who have suffered liver damage due to acetaminophen use. All claims are handled on a contingency-fee basis, meaning there are no out-of-pocket fees to hire our attorneys, and they are paid only out of any recovery obtained as the result of an acetaminophen injury settlement.

If you or a family member has suffered liver injury after taking acetaminophen, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.

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