Paracetamol for pain

Paracetamol is one of the most common active ingredients in pain relievers and has been used since the 1950s. It is widely available on its own in pain reliever brands like Panadol and Herron Paracetamol, or in combination with other active ingredients, such as codeine (e.g. Panadeine) or caffeine (Panadol Extra).

Paracetamol is also a common ingredient in some cold and flu medicines.

Paracetamol is effective for mild to moderate pain when used correctly, and it is also used to relieve fever.

What are the risks associated with using paracetamol?

There are risks associated with all pain relievers.

The dose recommended depends on the preparation and whether it is used for a child or an adult. When the correct dose of paracetamol is taken, side effects are rare.

When more than the recommended dose of paracetamol is used, liver injury and even death can occur. When combined with caffeine (Panadol Extra), too much additional caffeine may lead to difficulty sleeping, restlessness and headaches.

See our Medicine Update on Panadol Extra (paracetamol and caffeine).

If taking paracetamol regularly does not control your pain, non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – where suitable – may be used in combination with paracetamol. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

It’s not only pain medicines that can contain paracetamol. Many different types of medicine, such as tablets and drinks to relieve the symptoms of a cold, the flu or a sore throat, can also have paracetamol in them.

Remember: taking more paracetamol than recommended on the package will not provide better pain relief and can lead to overdose and serious side effects. Check the packaging of all of your medicines to make sure you’re not doubling up on the same active ingredient.

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