Paracetamol is a widely used analgesic and antipyretic medication, but do you really know what it is used for, what its recommended doses are and its risks?

According to data collected, according to a report based on data from 2013, our country spends around 9,183 million euros a year on medicines, through the billing of medical prescriptions. And according to these data, paracetamol is in second place in terms of consumption, with around 32 million containers being sold (representing 3.8% of the total).

We find ourselves, as we can see, before one of the most consumed drugs each year. In the same way that occurs with other equally common medications, such as ibuprofen or nonoil.

However, the reality is that few people know for sure when it is more appropriate to take one or the other, so it tends to be quite common for mistakes to be made when consuming it. For example, although as we will see ibuprofen and paracetamol tend to share analgesic properties, ibuprofen also acts as an anti-inflammatory, and paracetamol does not.

What is paracetamol?

As you may know, paracetamol is a drug that acts as an analgesic and antipyretic.  That is, it is a medicine with properties to relieve pain and reduce fever. However, we should not confuse it with ibuprofen, since it does not act as an anti-inflammatory.

It belongs to the family of Paraaminophenols and acts by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins, which are cellular mediators responsible for the onset of pain. Although it is better known by the name of paracetamol, it also goes by other names such as  acetaminophen, acetaminophen, or simply INN.

What is it for?

It is useful in case of mild and moderate pain, osteoarthritis and fever. That in broad strokes, because it is also useful in case of the common flu or cold, by helping to relieve the pain associated with these conditions and being useful in reducing high temperature (fever).

On the other hand, unlike what happens with acetylsalicylic acid, paracetamol does not contribute to Reye’s syndrome in children with viral diseases, which is why paracetamol has become one of the most consumed analgesics in cases of pain mild or moderate.

Its medical use is also common in patients with hematological diseases (Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease or leukemia), in case of rheumatoid arthritis, ant phospholipid syndrome and systemic lupus erythematous.

Recommended doses of paracetamol

The recommended dose is between 500 and 650 milligrams every 8 hours, while the maximum dose is 1 gram every 6 hours (around 4 grams a day).

We must bear in mind that paracetamol is toxic above 6 grams per day, and can cause -as we will see- significant damage to the liver, resulting in hepatic insufficiency (liver failure), and in some cases, death.

What are the risks of paracetamol?

In general, we are faced with a safe drug, which at normal doses does not tend to affect the gastric mucosa (that is, it tends to have good digestive tolerance since it does not present effects on the cyclooxygenase system), nor the kidneys, or blood coagulation. In addition, it hardly presents allergic reactions.

However, at high doses it can cause severe liver damage. Moreover, when consuming it, those patients with liver disease should be careful, especially if it is taken at excessive doses.


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