Health A to Z
Paracetamol is a commonly used medicine that can help treat pain and reduce a high temperature (fever).
Paracetamol is often recommended as one of the first treatments for pain, as it's safe for most people to take and side effects are rare.
This page covers:
You can buy most types of paracetamol from supermarkets or pharmacies. Some types are only available on prescription.
Paracetamol is available as:
In some products, such as cold and flu remedies or certain combination painkillers, paracetamol is combined with other ingredients.
It may be sold under the name paracetamol, or under various brand names (which may also contain other ingredients).
Most people can take paracetamol safely, including:
If you're not sure whether you can take paracetamol, check the leaflet that comes with it or ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.
Always get advice before taking paracetamol if you:
Don't take paracetamol if you've had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
Make sure you take paracetamol as directed on the label or leaflet, or as instructed by a health professional.
How much you can take depends on your age, your weight, the type of paracetamol you're taking and how strong it is. For example:
Paracetamol should start to work within an hour and the effect usually lasts several hours. Don't take more than the recommended dose if it isn't relieving your symptoms.
Contact your GP or call NHS 111 if your symptoms get worse or last more than three days despite taking paracetamol.
Be careful not to use other medications that contain paracetamol as an ingredient (such as some cold and flu remedies) while you're taking paracetamol.
Paracetamol can react unpredictably with certain other medications. This can affect how well either medicine works and might increase the risk of side effects.
It may not be safe to take paracetamol at the same time as:
Check the leaflet that comes with your medicine to see if it can be taken with paracetamol. Ask a pharmacist or doctor if you're not sure.
There are no known problems caused by taking paracetamol with any specific foods or by drinking moderate amounts of alcohol while taking paracetamol.
Side effects from paracetamol are rare but can include:
Speak to a pharmacist or doctor if you develop any troublesome side effects that you think could be caused by paracetamol.
You can also report suspected side effects using the Yellow Card Scheme.
Taking too much paracetamol, known as an overdose, can be very dangerous.
If you've taken more than the recommended maximum dose, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department as soon as possible.
It can be helpful to take any remaining medicine and the box or leaflet with you to A&E if you can.
Some people feel sick, vomit or have abdominal (tummy) pain after taking too much paracetamol, but often there are no obvious symptoms at first. Go to A&E even if you're feeling well.