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Over-the-counter pain relief medications come in many different names, shapes and sizes. According to Mayo Clinic experts, one of the most common and effective options is acetaminophen, also known in its brand form as Tylenol.
Jason Howland talks to a Mayo family physician and pharmacist about the benefits and risks of acetaminophen in this Mayo Clinic Minute.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (0:58) is in the downloads. Read the script.
Have a fever or minor aches and pains?
"Our first go-to medication is typically acetaminophen, or Tylenol," says Dr. Carrie Krieger, a clinical pharmacist at Mayo Clinic.
An over-the-counter pain reliever, acetaminophen works by chemically blocking pain receptor signals in the body. It also has a fever-reducing agent.
"So usually what I recommend for acetaminophen is lowest dose possible for effect," says Dr. Summer Allen, a Mayo Clinic family physician.
Typically, for Tylenol, that's either 325 or 500 milligrams. And, in general, don't exceed 3,000 milligrams in 24 hours. That includes any acetaminophen included in other medications you might be taking. For most people, the risks of side effects are minimal.
"Really, the concern that we have for side effects with acetaminophen is when we get too much," says Dr. Krieger. "Then that can cause liver damage or hepatotoxicity."
As with any medication, make sure you read the label. And talk to your health care provider or pharmacist if you have questions.