Most everyone in America lives with acetaminophen in their home. It’s typically in every person’s bathroom cabinet, first aid kit, or desk drawer at work. We turn to acetaminophen to treat headaches, muscle pain, bring down a fever, or treat pain from small injuries. According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, almost a quarter of Americans (23%) use acetaminophen-containing products each week. But as with all things in life, acetaminophen is not perfect. And, as with everything, too much of a good thing can be harmful.
Acetaminophen is a drug typically used to treat mild or moderate pain and fevers. However, it’s also used for the treatment of headaches, toothaches, and arthritis. Also known as paracetamol or APAP, acetaminophen is in both over-the-counter (OTC) brand names like Tylenol as well as prescription medications like Vicodin. Having acetaminophen in the home allows people to rest easy knowing that minor injuries can be treated with a pill.
When taken at the recommended doses, acetaminophen is reasonably safe to use. What makes acetaminophen safer than other pain relievers, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), is that it doesn’t cause the same risk of cardiovascular or digestive problems as other painkillers do. Another quality that makes acetaminophen preferable is that it is safe enough to use for pregnant women. Acetaminophen is one of the few pain relievers that pregnant women can use.
In a medical review published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, acetaminophen risks were thought to have been underestimated. Although it’s generally safe when used as recommended, acetaminophen does have its downsides to consider. The following are a few dangers to keep in mind when using acetaminophen.
8. Severe Skin Allergies
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a warning regarding acetaminophen use in 2013. The warning alerted consumers to severe, sometimes fatal, skin reactions, like toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) and Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS).
7. Blood Cancers
A 2011 study documented in the Journal of Clinical Oncology uncovered a link between regular acetaminophen use and the risk of specific blood cancers. The study consisted of 64,000 participants, ages 50 to 76. The discovered that long-term use of acetaminophen (used four or more times a week for four years) resulted in a twofold risk of blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.