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How to Take Tylenol

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is an easily available over-the-counter medication that comes in a variety of forms and dosage strengths. Adults can take Tylenol several times a day as long as the total amount taken is not more than 3,000 mg. For children, the maximum daily dose depends on the child’s age and weight.

Last Modified: June 6, 2022
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How Much Tylenol Can I Take?

For an average adult who weighs about 150 pounds, the maximum daily dose of Tylenol you can take is 4,000 mg, an amount validated across several medical studies. But for some people, taking the maximum daily dose for extended periods can cause serious damage to the liver (also called hepatotoxicity).

As a result, some experts recommend taking a lower maximum daily dose of no more than 3,250 mg, especially if the medication is taken daily for more than a week at a time.

If you must take higher doses of Tylenol for chronic pain, make sure to consult with your doctor first. Additionally, the package label of all OTC pain medications advises consumers to stop use and seek medical attention if the pain gets worse or lasts more than 10 days. The same rule applies to Tylenol.

For children, doctors dose Tylenol by a child’s weight. Call your doctor or pharmacist for dosing assistance.

For infants or children younger than 2 years old, Tylenol cannot be used without instructions from a prescriber. However, the dosage for children’s Tylenol chewables has changed. Chewables and liquid forms now have comparable dosages.

If you have an old dose in your medicine cabinet and it is not expired, you can still use the product but make sure you follow the dosing instructions on the package.

How Often Can I Take Tylenol?

In 2011, concerns about and medical reports of liver damage associated with high doses of acetaminophen led Tylenol manufacturer McNeil Laboratories, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, to lower the maximum daily dose for single-ingredient Extra Strength Tylenol products sold in the U.S. from 4,000 mg (eight pills) to 3,000 mg (six pills) per day.

McNeil also changed the dosing interval from two pills taken every four to six hours to two pills taken every six hours. The changes were designed to encourage the safe use of acetaminophen and reduce the possibility of severe liver damage and a fatal overdose.

If you or a family member overdose on acetaminophen, you should seek immediate medical help. Contact the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 to learn what you can do in advance of any professional emergency care. Prompt medical attention is critical for both adults and children even when no signs or symptoms of overdose are observed.

Tylenol Dosage for Adults
Type of TYLENOL®Product FormDirections
TYLENOL® Regular Strength TabletsTabletsTake 2 tablets every 4-6 hours while symptoms last. Do not exceed 10 tablets in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor
TYLENOL® Regular Strength Liquid GelsCapsulesTake 2 capsules every 4-6 hours while symptoms last. Do not exceed 10 capsules in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor
TYLENOL® Extra Strength CapletsCapletsTake 2 caplets every 6 hours while symptoms last Do not exceed 6 caplets in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor
TYLENOL® Extra Strength Coated TabletsCoated TabletsTake 2 tablets every 6 hours while symptoms last Do not exceed 6 tablets in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor
TYLENOL® Rapid Release GelsGel capsTake 2 gel caps every 6 hours while symptoms last Do not exceed 6 gel caps in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor
TYLENOL® 8HR Arthritis Pain CapletsTake 2 caplets every 8 hours while symptoms last Do not exceed 6 caplets in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor
TYLENOL® 8HR Muscle Aches & PainCapletsTake 2 caplets every 8 hours while symptoms last Do not exceed 6 caplets in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor
TYLENOL® Extra Strength Dissolve PacksPowder PacksTake 2 powders every 8 hours while symptoms last Do not exceed 6 powders in 24 hours, unless directed by a doctor
Tylenol Dosage for Children and Infants
Child’s Weight AgeInfants’ TYLENOL® Oral Suspension 160 Mg / 5mlChildren’s TYLENOL® Oral Suspension 160 Mg / 5mlChildren’s TYLENOL® Chewable Tablet 160 Mg / TabletChildren’s TYLENOL® Dissolve Packs 160 Mg / Pack acetaminophen
6 to 11 lbs0-3 monthsAsk A DoctorAsk A DoctorAsk A DoctorDo Not Use
12 to 17 lbs4-11 monthsAsk A DoctorAsk A DoctorAsk A DoctorDo Not Use
18 to 23 lbs12-23 monthsAsk A DoctorAsk A DoctorAsk A DoctorDo Not Use
24 to 35 lbs2-3 years5 ML5 ML1 TabletDo Not Use
36 to 47 lbs4-5 years---------7.5 ML1 ½ TabletsDo Not Use
48 to 59 lbs6-8 years---------10 ML2 Tablets2 Packs
60 to 71 lbs9-10 years ---------12.5 ML2 ½ Tablets2 Packs
72 to 95 lbs11 years---------15 ML3 Tablets3 Packs

You should take Tylenol exactly as prescribed by your doctor or as directed on the label. An overdose of acetaminophen can damage your liver or cause death.

Adults and teenagers who weigh at least 110 pounds should not take more than 1,000 mg of acetaminophen at a time and not more than 4,000 mg within 24 hours.

Children younger than 12 years old should take acetaminophen according to their weight and age and not should not take more than five doses in 24 hours.

If you have questions about administering this medication to your children, consult your pediatrician and refer to the Tylenol’s pediatric dosing chart.

Dose levels include any other medicines that contain acetaminophen. If you take multiple medications that have acetaminophen as an ingredient, find out how much of it there is in each drug. If you do not know, overestimate the amount to keep your overall intake below the 24-hour maximum.

How Long Does Tylenol Take to Work?

The time it takes for Tylenol (acetaminophen) to start working depends on the formulation and the method of drug consumption. In general, medications take approximately 30 minutes to dissolve once swallowed. If the medication has a special coating that protects it from stomach acids, it may take longer for it to reach the bloodstream.

Acetaminophen has 88% oral bioavailability and reaches its highest plasma concentration approximately 90 minutes after ingestion. It usually takes around 45 minutes for oral tablets and extended-release tablets to start working when taken on an empty stomach.

Oral disintegrating tablets and oral Tylenol liquid start to work in about 20 minutes, while the intravenous acetaminophen takes five to 10 minutes to have an effect.

If taken on a full stomach, Tylenol can need twice as long to have an effect, depending on its preparation. Suppositories can take even longer to start working, up to two hours.

It usually takes longer for Tylenol to lower a fever than to relieve pain. Researchers recommend more study to document accurately the absorption rates for neonatal, infant and pediatric consumers.

How Long Does Tylenol Work For?

Acetaminophen is almost completely absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract following oral administration. Food can delay absorption of extended-release tablets.

After taking an immediate- or extended-release Tylenol formulations, peak plasma concentration is attained within 10 to 60 minutes or 60 to 120 minutes, respectively. After taking a single 500 mg regular tablet or a single 600 mg extended-release tablet, the average plasma concentration of acetaminophen occurs at six or eight hours, respectively.

In all conventional forms of acetaminophen, only small amounts of the medication are detectable in plasma after eight hours, including extended-release tablets.

The average half-life of acetaminophen for a normal adult after an intravenous dose of 15 mg per pound is approximately two-and-a-half hours, while the elimination half-life is between one and three hours. If you stop taking Tylenol, all the medication will have passed out through the urine within 24 hours.

The pain relief and fever reduction abilities of acetaminophen typically last about four hours. If your pain does not get better or if your fever does not start to come down after one to two hours, contact your doctor or pharmacist or prescriber to see if you need a larger dose or a different medication.

Can I Take Tylenol on an Empty Stomach?

The official Tylenol website notes in its FAQ section that Tylenol can be safely taken on an empty stomach as it is gentle on the stomach. In fact, taking Tylenol on an empty stomach might be recommended, as an empty stomach absorbs Tylenol much faster.

You can also take the medication with food as there are no reported interactions with food. However, people with a sensitive gastro-intestinal tract might feel ill or uncomfortable after taking Tylenol on an empty stomach. As such, for most people, taking Tylenol with some food might turn out to be better and much more comfortable.

New research suggests that taking medication with different beverages can impact the disintegration time of the medication which can change the timeline for when the medication works. Taking Tylenol with a glass of water or milk alleviates any concerns regarding gut irritation and its absorption into the bloodstream.

Can I Take Tylenol If I Have a Stomach Ulcer?

Some OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen are known to cause ulcers. However, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the development of stomach ulcers in not considered to be among potential Tylenol side effects.

The official Tylenol brand website states that Tylenol is a safe pain reliever for people with a history of stomach ulcers, stomach bleeding and other stomach problems such as heartburn. In general, acetaminophen is believed to be safe for people with ulcers as it does not affect the natural lining of the stomach.

Because it does not thin the blood, Tylenol does not increase the risk of bleeding either. However, as far as data about whether it is safe to take Tylenol when a person already has an ulcer, more study is required.

Can Tylenol Damage Your Liver?

Medical experts have identified more than 1,000 medications as potentially toxic to the liver. Of those, acetaminophen, the analgesic and fever reducer found in Tylenol, was found to cause more cases of acute liver damage than any other medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Liver Foundation lists acetaminophen as the most common drug ingredient in FDA-approved medications. Because of this ubiquity, it’s easy for people to accidentally overdose on it. In fact, approximately 30 to 50% of hospitalizations related to acetaminophen stem from an unintentional overdose. Acetaminophen toxicity is also a common cause of acute liver failure in children and adolescents.

The key to reducing the risk of liver damage is awareness about how much acetaminophen you’re consuming. Tally up the total amount of acetaminophen you consume on an average daily basis to make sure the total dose is below the 3,000 mg daily limit.

When you take Tylenol, you must monitor other medications you take in combination, making sure any of them with acetaminophen as an ingredient do not cause an errant overdose.

In addition, drinking alcohol exacerbates liver complications. That makes Tylenol (or any medication containing acetaminophen) mixed with any alcoholic beverage — beer, wine, alcohol seltzers, liquor, etc. — dangerous. Men should not have more than two standard drinks per day when taking acetaminophen. The limit for women is one drink per day.

The FDA recommends that anyone taking medications containing acetaminophen should not drink alcoholic beverages.

If a healthy liver is already compromised because of infection, alcohol abuse or other illness, a person may be more susceptible to acetaminophen toxicity after an overdose.

Symptoms of Tylenol Overdose

Soon after taking an overdose of acetaminophen, a person may not have discernible signs or symptoms of acetaminophen toxicity. Initial symptoms can take between 12 and 24 hours to appear. Then the following symptoms may appear:

  • Abdominal pain
  • General body weakness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellow appearance of eyes and skin)
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

Timing is a vital factor in the treatment of acetaminophen toxicity. Treatment is most effective when given within eight hours of a Tylenol overdose. The most widely used antidote for acetaminophen overdose is N-acetylcysteine (NAC). NAC prevents liver failure if given soon after an overdose.

For people who NAC does not help and who develop liver failure, a liver transplant may be the only treatment option that can save their lives. This underscores the need for acetaminophen toxicity to be diagnosed and treated immediately. However, long term use of acetaminophen in recommended dosages has not been proved to harm the liver.

In case of an overdose of acetaminophen, seek medical help right away or contact the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.