Paracetamol

Sounds like 'paa-ra-SEE-ta-mol'

Easy-to-read medicine information about paracetamol – what it is, how to take paracetamol safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicineAlso called
  • Analgesic (pain killer)
  • Antipyretic (reduces body temperature)
  • Panadol®
  • Ethics Paracetamol®
  • Paracare®
  • Pharmacare Paracetamol®
  • Parapaed®
  • Pamol®

What is paracetamol?

  • Paracetamol is the most commonly used pain relief medicine in New Zealand and many countries around the world.
  • It can be safely used by adults, children and pregnant women, to relieve pain and reduce fever.  
  • Paracetmaol is available in liquid, tablets and suppository form.
  • It is  found in many combination medicines you can buy direct from the pharmacy for colds, flu or pain so do not take two products which both contain paracetamol. If you are unsure, check with your pharmacist.
  • These are just some of the products also containing paracetamol:
    • Codral®
    • Coldrex®
    • Dimetapp®
    • Lemsip®
    • Maxigesic®
    • Mersyndol®
    • Panadeine®
    • Paramax®
    • Sinutab PE®

Does my child need paracetamol?

  • Use paracetamol if your child needs pain relief or if your child has a fever (temperature over 38.5°C) and is miserable.
  • It is not recommended to routinely give paracetamol before or after regular vaccinations.

How to take paracetamol

  • You can take paracetamol with or without food.
  • Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how long and how much of this medicine to take.
  • If you are giving paracetamol to a child, always check how much to give with your pharmacist.
  • Wait at least four hours between doses. Do not give  more than four times in 24 hours.
  • Keep track of the timing of the doses and check when it was last given before giving it again.
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember.But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.

Dose 

Babies and children

  • Paracetmol suspension is available in two strengths – 120mg/5mL and 250mg/5mL.
  • Always check that the dose you are giving your child matches the strength of the suspension.
  • If you are unsure, check with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • The following is a guide: 

 

Useful pamphlet for parents or caregivers

Paracetamol Dosing Chart
Wait at least four hours between doses. Do not give  more than four times in 24 hours.

Child's weight 120mg/5mL 250mg/5mL

Less than 5 kg 

Ask your doctor 

6.5 kg 4 mL 2 mL
8 kg 5 mL 2.5 mL
10 kg 6 mL 3 mL
15 kg 9 mL 4.5 mL
20 kg 12 mL 6 mL
30 kg 18 mL 9 mL
40 kg 25 mL 12 mL

Adults

  • The usual dose in adults is 500 mg to 1 gram (1 or 2 tablets) every 4 to 6 hours when required for pain.  
  • Do not take more than 4 grams (8 tablets) in 24 hours.

Overdose

Paracetamol is a very popular medicine and when taken correctly works well. However, too much paracetamol can damage you or your child's liver.

  • If you realise you have had too much or taken two products with paracetamol in it, call your doctor, nurse or the Poisons Centre  0800 POISON (0800 764 766) immediately.
  • Children and older people are most at risk so take extra care.
  • Keep paracetamol in child-proof containers and out of reach of children.

Do NOT wait for signs of an overdose as these appear late when the damage to the liver is already done.

Late signs may include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhoea,
  • yellow skin or eyes,
  • poor appetite,
  • confusion or extreme sleepiness.

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer information sheets  Children's Panadol 

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information Paracetamol