HEALTHY LIVING
11/27/2011 11:28 am ET | Updated Nov 29, 2011

Taking Just A Little Too Much Tylenol A Day Can Lead To Overdose, Study Finds

Be careful if you're taking just a little bit more Tylenol than is recommended per day -- a new study suggests that all that extra acetaminophen can add up over several days and lead to a dangerous overdose.

Researchers from University of Edinburgh in Scotland found that these smaller, "staggered overdoses" can even turn out to be more dangerous than a single overdose, MSNBC reported.

The study "sheds light on the fact that the maximum recommended daily dose should be strictly adhered to," Dr. Joshua Lenchus, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told MSNBC.

In the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology study, researchers analyzed health data from 663 people with an acetaminophen-induced severe liver injury.

Researchers found that people who had a "staggered overdose" in acetaminophen were also the ones who were most likely to have brain or liver problems, need kidney dialysis and die from complications, BBC News reported.

TIME reported that older people and people who drink a lot of alcohol had the highest health risks from "staggered overdose."

"They haven't taken the sort of single-moment, one-off massive overdoses taken by people who try to commit suicide, but over time the damage builds up, and the effect can be fatal," study researcher Dr. Kenneth Simpson told BBC News.

Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, is often used to relieve pain. Common acetaminophen brands include Tylenol and Triaminic Fever & Pain, and the drug is also used as an ingredient in other medicines including Alka-Seltzer Cold and Sinus, Bayer Select, Benadryl Sinus Headache, Dayquil, Excedrin, Robitussin Cold Cough and Flu, and Theraflu Cold & Sore Throat. (Click here for the full list of acetaminophen-containing medicines.)

The National Institutes of Health report that overdosing on acetaminophen is one of the most common causes of poisoning around the world. Symptoms of overdose include nausea, sweating, vomiting, abdominal pain and even coma.

Recently, the maker of Extra-Strength Tylenol announced that it was reducing the drug's maximum daily dose to curb accidental overdoses, the Associated Press reported. Now, the maximum daily dose for the drug is six pills per day (3,000 milligrams), which is down from the previous eight pills a day (4,000 milligrams).

MSNBC reported that in January, the Food and Drug Administration asked acetaminophen-manufacturers to lower the dose per pill to 325 milligrams, though taking a pill of this dosage every four hours could still put a person at risk from "staggered overdose" from acetaminophen.

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