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Paracetamol

Find out what paracetamol is, how you have it and other important information about taking paracetamol.

Paracetamol is a painkiller for mild to moderate pain. It can also control high temperatures (fever). It has a number of different brand names, for example Panadol, Anadin and Calpol. Paracetamol can also be in other medicines such as Anadin Extra and cold remedies like Beechams and Benylin. In America it is also known as acetaminophen or Tylenol. 

How paracetamol works

Paracetamol seems to work by blocking chemical messages in the brain that tell us we have pain. 

How you have paracetamol

You can take paracetamol as:

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • caplets
  • soluble tablets
  • a syrup that you drink
  • an injection into a vein (this is only used in hospitals)

You can get paracetamol on prescription or buy it from a pharmacy or other shops such as your local supermarket. There is a limit on the amount you can buy for example a supermarket can only sell packets of 16 tablets. And a pharmacy will only allow you to buy 32 tablets at one time. 

Taking your tablets or capsules

You must take tablets and capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.

Whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream.

You should take the right dose, not more or less.

Into your bloodstream

You can have the drug through a thin short tube (a cannula) that goes into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.

Or you might have it through a long line: a central line, a PICC line or a portacath.

These are long plastic tubes that give the drug into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment.

When you have it

The dose you take depends on the amount you need to control your pain. You can take paracetamol to help control cancer pain or for other reasons such as headaches. You take it at the same time as other painkillers or in between taking them. 

Your doctor, pharmacist or nurse will give you instructions about when to take paracetamol and how much to have. 

The normal dose for an adult is 1 to 2 tablets normal strength (500mg to 1,000mg) every 4 to 6 hours. You should not take more than 8 normal strength tablets (4,000mg) in 24 hours.

Tests during treatment

You might have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your general health and might check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood.

Side effects

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Remember that many over the counter medicines contain paracetamol, for example cold and flu remedies. Always check the packets of any other medicines you are taking to find out if they contain paracetamol. If you are taking paracetamol, do not take any other medicine containing paracetamol.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.