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Accidental acetaminophen overdoses.

Acetaminophen is an important drug for treating fever and pain. But too much of it can lead to serious liver problems and even death. Surprisingly, most children who overdose on acetaminophen don't take the pills themselves.

Parent dosing errors account for 80% of acetaminophen overdoses in children under age 10. According to Melvin Heyman, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, "In the majority of cases in younger children, parents thought they were giving therapeutic doses, when in fact they were administering toxic amounts of the drug."

Why do parents make these potentially lethal mistakes? Sometimes parents confuse the different forms of acetaminophen. For example, acetaminophen suspension drop contains 80mg/0.8ml while the suspension liquid contains 80mg/2.5cc. The chewable tablets contain 80mg each, but the junior caplets contain 160mg.

Another problem is that many parents don't realize that many combination medicines, such as cold preparation, contain acetaminophen in addition to other drugs. This can lead to unintentional acetaminophen overdoses.

According to James Freston, M.D., president of the American Gastroenterological Association, "Acetaminophen poisoning in children is a serious problem - not so much because of its frequency, but because of its lethality." It's extremely hepatotoxic - an overdose can lead to destruction of the liver. Although there is an effective treatment for acetaminophen overdoses, some children do die from their overdose.

         Children's Acetaminophen Doses

Under 3 months            40mg per dose
4-11 months               80mg per dose
12-23 months             120mg per dose
2-3 years (24-35 lbs)    180mg per dose
4-5 years (36-47 lbs)    240mg per dose
6-8 years (48-59 lbs)    320mg per dose
9-10 years (60-71 lbs)   400mg per dose
11 years (72-95 lbs)     480mg per dose

(All doses every 4 hours, maximum 5 doses per day)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:adapted from the Medical Tribune, June 1995
Publication:Pediatrics for Parents
Date:Feb 1, 1995
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