What happens if you have too much paracetamol, I you what paracetamol much too has happens
Taking slightly too much paracetamol day after day can be fatal, experts have warned. A dangerous dose might just be a few pills too many taken regularly over days, weeks or months, they said.
Paracetamol is the most common drug taken in overdose in the UK. Almostpeople attend Accident and Emergency departments each year after having taken a paracetamol overdose, and around half of these are admitted for treatment. When taken in a normal dose, paracetamol is a safe and effective drug used to relieve pain and reduce fevers. Too high a dose however can result in liver damage, liver failure and death.
Over the last ten years, there have been approximately deaths each year from paracetamol poisoning in England and Wales. Just a few paracetamol tablets over the recommended dose can potentially cause fatal liver damage, and there may be no symptoms until it is too late for treatment to help.
There is an antidote for paracetamol poisoning and it is most effective within eight hours of the overdose, so getting help early is essential. The recommended adult dose of paracetamol is 1 gram, four times a day. Each tablet of paracetamol contains milligrams so this equates to two tablets four times a day with a maximum daily dose of 4 grams or eight tablets.
At least four to six hours should be left between doses. You should not take more than this recommended dose. Some overdoses are taken intentionally as an act of self-harm but many are accidental. Taking a few extra tablets each day over a of days could push you into harmful toxic levels and result in liver damage and possibly death. If you have taken more than the recommended dose you should attend Accident and Emergency to be assessed as soon as possible.
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Paracetamol is mainly cleared from the body by the liver. The liver can only cope with so much paracetamol at one time. A substance called glutathione is needed to neutralise the toxic break down components of paracetamol. If the glutathione runs out, then the toxic substances build up and damage liver cells.
An adult body can produce enough glutathione to safely clear 4 grams of paracetamol every 24 hours which is why it is the recommended dose. Taking more than this amount risks permanent and even fatal liver damage. There are other factors which determine how much paracetamol your body can safely deal with and these include:.
In these situations, the safe daily amount of paracetamol will be reduced, you may even be advised to avoid it altogether — check with your doctor. Any amount of paracetamol over the recommended dose could be classed as an overdose. Staggered overdoses, where people take more than the recommended dose over a period of hours or days can cause harm in the same way that sudden, large overdoses can. Sometimes people take a small amount over the recommended dose every day with no intention of harming themselves, just to help ease their pains.
Paracetamol warning: 'slightly too much can cause overdose'
This is called a therapeutic excess and can still be harmful. There may be no symptoms until liver damage is already established so the presentation to a doctor can be late and the condition irreversible. Paracetamol was first made available over the counter in the UK in Due to concern over the of deaths from paracetamol overdoses, the Government placed restrictions on how much you could buy in one go.
Reducing the amount to a maximum purchase of 8 grams 16 tablets made it harder to overdose. Over the following ten years, the of deaths from paracetamol poisoning fell by 43 per cent.
The requirement for paracetamol to be sold in blister packs also made overdosing more difficult. Many products such as flu remedies and painkillers contain paracetamol. Always read the label carefully. You may feel sick or have abdominal pain but the alarming thing about paracetamol overdose is that there may not be any symptoms for up to 12 days after ingestion. People are often unaware of this fact and of the dangers of paracetamol in excess so they may not seek medical help. When they do they may already have liver damage and treatment may not be successful.
Liver damage can happen within a few days of paracetamol overdose. The symptoms and s of liver damage include:. There is an antidote to paracetamol and accessing this as soon as possible is essential.
Some youth taking too much paracetamol by accident: study
The drug N-acetylcysteine is given intravenously through a vein. It protects the liver from damage, this may work via increasing glutathione levels. It is most effective within 8 hours of an overdose but can be used up to and occasionally beyond 24 hours. If someone presents to Accident and Emergency within one hour of ingesting a ificant amount of paracetamol, they may be treated with activated charcoal.
This is taken in liquid form and binds to paracetamol in the gastrointestinal tract reducing the amount which is absorbed. Doctors will discuss cases of paracetamol overdose with the National Poisons Information Service if there is any doubt as to whether treatment is required. Around 1 in paracetamol overdoses result in liver failure. Liver failure can be fatal and the only cure is a liver transplant.
The British Liver Trust say that emergency liver transplantation is uncommon and only 20 to 30 are carried out each year in the UK. If someone is very unwell with an overdose they may require treatment in an intensive care unit. It is common for people to take a variety of different medications when they overdose and each can have its own complications and treatments.
Paracetamol for adults
Everyone who has been admitted to hospital with an overdose needs to be seen by the psychiatric team before they are discharged home. Understanding why they took the overdose and what help and support they need is essential.
It is important to ensure they are not at risk from harming themselves again and have ongoing treatment arranged for their mental health. There is ongoing research to find new treatments for paracetamol overdose that will be effective beyond the eight-hour window that current treatment with N-acetylcysteine offers.
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