Paracetamol is a common pain reliever or an analgesic that is available over the counter in most countries. It is also known as acetaminophen, which is its chemical name. Paracetamol relieves pain by reducing the production of prostaglandins in the body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that play a role in response to injury, inflammation, and other processes related to pain and disease. Paracetamol has many other names and brand names depending on where you buy it. Common alternatives include Tylenol (US), Panadol (Australia) and Coartem (Argentina). Paracetamol comes in tablet and liquid forms with different dosage recommendations for each one.
How Does Paracetamol Work?
Paracetamol reduces pain by changing the way our bodies respond to pain and inflammation. It does this by blocking the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that play a role in response to injury, inflammation, and other processes related to pain and disease. Paracetamol is most effective against mild to moderate pain. It is less effective in cases of severe pain. Paracetamol is not a cure for disease. It only treats pain and other symptoms that are related to the disease. Paracetamol is available over the counter in most countries. You can get it in tablet form or in liquid form. You can also get it in a combination product with other ingredients such as codeine or ibuprofen.
Advantages of Paracetamol
- Mild and effective pain reliever: Paracetamol is usually the first choice for mild to moderate pain relief. It works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that are involved in the response to injury and other processes related to pain and disease.
- It is safe for pregnant women: Pregnant women can safely take paracetamol to relieve mild to moderate pain. Studies have shown that it is safe for both the mother and the fetus.
- It is safe for children: Children are likely to experience an occasional fever at some point. Paracetamol can help reduce the fever and make the child more comfortable.
- It is safe for healthy people with no known medical conditions: This makes paracetamol very useful in many situations, such as when you have a cold or flu.
- It is safe for the elderly: Some pain relievers can have side effects. But the risk of side effects is low with paracetamol.
- It is safe for people with certain medical conditions: This includes people who have liver or kidney diseases, metabolic disorders, and digestive problems.
- It is safe for people taking certain medications: Paracetamol can be safely taken along with certain medications, including some antibiotics and blood-thinning medications.
Side effects of Paracetamol
- It can cause liver damage: Paracetamol is safe when used as directed. But it is important to know that it can cause liver damage. This is why it is important to follow the dosing instructions carefully. - It can cause kidney damage: In some cases, paracetamol use has been found to cause kidney damage. This is less likely to happen if you use the recommended dose.
- It can cause allergic reactions: If you have a history of allergies, it is important to read the label to make sure that the paracetamol you are about to take does not contain anything you are allergic to.
- It can cause stomach ulcers: Research has shown that taking paracetamol regularly increases the risk of developing stomach ulcers. But this is less likely to happen if you take it at recommended doses for short durations.
- It can cause rare but serious allergic reactions: Although paracetamol is generally safe, it can cause rare but serious allergic reactions in some people. These allergic reactions can be life-threatening.
- It can cause headaches: Paracetamol can sometimes cause headaches. Regular headaches due to paracetamol should go away if you stop taking the drug.
- It can cause sleepiness: Regularly taking high doses of paracetamol can cause sleepiness.
- It can cause abdominal cramps: Regularly taking high doses of paracetamol can cause abdominal cramps.
Warnings for Paracetamol Usage
- Paracetamol is not a cure for disease: Paracetamol should not be used to treat diseases like colds or coughs. It should only be used to treat mild to moderate pain.
- Avoid using high doses of paracetamol: Using high doses of paracetamol can cause serious health problems. If you regularly take more than the recommended daily dose, you are at risk of developing serious health problems.
- Use paracetamol for short durations: Paracetamol is safe for short durations when used as directed. It is important to remember that it does not cure diseases. It only treats symptoms like pain.
Tips to Manage the Side Effects of Paracetamol
- Drink lots of water: It is important to stay hydrated when taking any drug, especially one that can cause stomach upset.
- Avoid taking it with alcohol: Alcohol can increase the risk of paracetamol side effects.
- Avoid taking it with food that can irritate your stomach: Highly refined or processed foods can contain ingredients that can irritate your stomach. Avoid taking it with food that can cause indigestion.
- Avoid taking it in large doses: Follow the dosing instructions carefully to avoid overdosing.
- Remember that it does not cure diseases: Paracetamol can only treat pain. It cannot cure diseases.
Paracetamol is a common pain reliever that is usually the first choice for mild to moderate pain. It works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that are involved in the response to injury and other processes related to pain and disease. Paracetamol is safe for pregnant women, children, and the elderly. It is also safe for people with certain medical conditions and people who are taking certain medications. Paracetamol can cause liver damage, kidney damage, stomach ulcers, allergic reactions, and headaches in some people. It is important to follow the dosing instructions carefully to avoid overdosing and its potential side effects.