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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: September 5, 2023
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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. For some people, taking the maximum daily dose for extended periods can cause serious liver damage (hepatotoxicity).

Some experts recommend taking a lower maximum daily dose of no more than 3,250 mg, especially if taken daily for more than a week. Consult with your doctor before taking higher doses for chronic pain. OTC pain medication package labels advise consumers to stop use and seek medical attention if pain worsens or lasts more than 10 days. This same approach applies when taking 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. 

The dosage for children’s Tylenol chewables has changed. Chewables and liquid forms now have comparable dosages.

How Often Can I Take Tylenol?

Concerns regarding potential liver damage associated with high doses of acetaminophen led 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. in 2011.

The shift was from 4,000 mg (eight pills) to 3,000 mg (six pills) of Extra Strength Tylenol per day. McNeil also changed the dosing interval from two pills taken every four to six hours to two pills taken every six hours.

Findings from one 2022 clinical research trial suggested that regular daily intake of 4,000 mg acetaminophen increased systolic blood pressure in individuals with hypertension by about 5 mm Hg compared with a placebo. The study concluded that this increase in cardiovascular risk calls into question the safety of regular acetaminophen use in similar situations.

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

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

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.

Approximately 88% of acetaminophen is absorbed in the stomach and reaches its highest 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.

For How Long Does Tylenol Work?

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

After taking an immediate- or extended-release Tylenol formulation, peak 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 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 your blood after eight hours, including extended-release tablets. If you stop taking Tylenol, all the medication will have passed out through your 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?

Because this is among one of the most common questions about Tylenol, 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 most 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. However, when a person already has an ulcer, more study is required.

Tylenol does not increase the risk of bleeding alone. However, it may enhance the risk of bleeding when combined with certain blood thinners. If you are taking any blood thinners, ask your doctor about taking Tylenol.

Lawsuit Information
ADHD and autism spectrum disorder are among the injuries being named in Tylenol lawsuits.
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Can Tylenol Damage Your Liver?

Acetaminophen was found to cause more cases of acute liver damage than any other medication the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved. And the Liver Foundation lists acetaminophen as the most common drug ingredient in FDA-approved medications. 

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 making sure you’re aware of all sources of acetaminophen you’re taking, making sure your total dose is below the 3,000 mg daily limit. Additionally, alcohol exacerbates liver complications. 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.

Initial symptoms of acetaminophen overdose can take between 12 and 24 hours to appear. Then the following symptoms may appear:

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

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 proven 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.