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How to Safely Give Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen (uh-see-tuh-MI-nuh-fen) is an over-the-counter medicine taken to relieve fever and pain. It's a safe drug when used correctly for a wide variety of problems, but taking too high a dose can make a child very sick. Overdosing can lead to liver damage and, in rare cases, even death. So it's important to know how to properly give the medicine.

If you have any questions about giving acetaminophen to your child, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Never give this medicine (or any other kind of medicine) to a child younger than 2 years old without getting a doctor's OK first.

What Is Acetaminophen Also Called?

Acetaminophen is the generic name of this drug. In some other countries, acetaminophen is known as paracetamol. Many generic brands of acetaminophen are available.

The most common brand name for this medicine is Tylenol®, but it is also sold under the names Panadol®, FeverAll®, and Tempra®.

What Types Are Available?

For kids, this medicine is available in oral suspensions (liquid form) and also chewable tablets. Chewable tablets are not recommended for children younger than 2 because they are a choking hazard. Rectal suppositories (FeverAll® or Tempra®) are available for children who have trouble taking medicine by mouth or can't keep medicines down due to vomiting.

Tylenol® makes Infants' Tylenol® ("drops") and Children's Tylenol® oral suspensions, as well as Jr. Tylenol® chewable tablets. Many generic brands of acetaminophen are available in similar forms.

Tylenol® and other brands that make infant drops used to offer them in a more concentrated formula, which was 80 mg/0.8 ml per dose. These drops were taken off the market because babies were getting sick after parents mistakenly gave too much medicine while using kitchen teaspoons or measuring cups from Children's Tylenol®. If you have Infants' Tylenol® or a similar product in the 80 mg strength, throw the product away and do not give it to your child. The new infant drops have the same concentration as Children's Tylenol® (160 mg/5 ml per dose).

Giving Acetaminophen

Refer to the following dosage charts for the correct dosage of acetaminophen. And be sure to:

Dosage Charts

Doctors recommend using a child's weight instead of age when figuring out how much medicine to give. Before giving your child a dose, check the label to make sure the recommended dosage and concentration agree with the numbers below.

This chart is based on doctors' and the manufacturers' recommendations and is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. If your child is age 2 or younger, get approval from the doctor before giving the medicine. And always call your doctor with any questions or concerns about giving medicine.

Weight Infants' Liquid
(160 mg/5 ml)
6-11 lbs.
(0-3 months)
Ask your doctor
12-17 lbs.
(4-11 months)
Ask your doctor
18-22 lbs.
(12-23 months)
Ask your doctor
23-35 lbs.
(2-3 years)
1 teaspoon (5 ml, or full 5-ml dosing syringe)

Weight Children's Liquid
(160 mg/5 ml)
12-17 lbs.
(4-11 months)
Ask your doctor
18-22 lbs.
(12-23 months)
Ask your doctor
23-35 lbs.
(2-3 years)
1 teaspoon (5 ml, or full 5-ml dosing syringe)
36-47 lbs.
(4-5 years)
1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml)
48-59 lbs.
(6-8 years)
2 teaspoons (10 ml)
60-71 lbs.
(9-10 years)
2½ teaspoons (12.5 ml)
72-95 lbs.
(11 years)
3 teaspoons (15 ml)

Weight Jr. Strength Chewables
(160 mg)
24-35 lbs.
(2-3 years)
Not Recommended
36-47 lbs.
(4-5 years)
Not Recommended
48-59 lbs.
(6-8 years)
2 tablets
60-71 lbs.
(9-10 years)
2½ tablets
72-95 lbs.
(11 years)
3 tablets
Over 96 lbs.
(12 years)
4 tablets

Reviewed by: Steve Dowshen, MD, and Karla R. Hughes, RPh
Date reviewed: March 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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