Will Acetaminophen Give Your Child ADHD and Destroy Your Liver, Too?

3 years ago

Back when I was pregnant with the twins, my doctor told me that the only over-the-counter painkiller that was safe to take was Tylenol. I luckily didn't need it often, but there were times when I had a headache during those months and I popped two Tylenol.

Image: Debs via Flickr

Tylenol is once again in the news this week because a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics is linking Tylenol use during pregnancy with a chance for ADHD later in life.  This does not mean that you should refrain from using Tylenol during pregnancy, but this news is being reported because further studies are needed to examine Tylenol's connection to issues post-birth.  And, as always, any medication taken during pregnancy -- even one as common as Tylenol -- should be discussed first with the person's doctor.

I say "once again in the news" because Tylenol is like a cute fuzzy bunny with fangs sort of drug. When taken correctly, the average person benefits by having their pain managed. When used incorrectly, which happens with frequency, it has the potential to kill.  Acetaminophen overdoses is one of the most common form of poisoning, contributing to cases of liver failure.  According to Propublica,

During the last decade, more than 1,500 Americans died after accidentally taking too much of a drug renowned for its safety: acetaminophen, one of the nation’s most popular pain relievers.

Because it's an over-the-counter remedy, and people often remember that it is safe even during a risky period of time such as pregnancy, people use it without much thought.  Yet it's easy to exceed the recommended dose, especially if you combine two drugs both containing acetaminophen. 

In January, the FDA recommended that doctors stop prescribing "combination drug products that contain more than 325 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen."  The problem with combination drugs is that an excess of acetaminophen may be consumed in order to get the recommended dosage of another aspect of the drug.  People may also additionally take acetaminophen separately, not realizing that the painkiller is already contained in the combination drug. 

By placing this information out there about Tylenol's potential connection to ADHD or the dangers of Tylenol poisoning, the media is trying to convey that a drug is still a drug and should be taken with caution regardless of how innocent it looks or its drug class during pregnancy.  People should be mindful about what they place in their body while they're pregnant.  Additionally, every person should be mindful of the potential for liver damage from consuming more than the recommended dosage of Tylenol.

Do you only take the recommended dosage of Tylenol?  Did you know about acetaminophen poisoning?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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