Health Watch — Cold and Flu Season: Cold Medicine

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

 This week on Health Watch, we’ve been talking about cold and flu season, and especially how to prevent illness. But if all your efforts to avoid getting sick don’t work, you need to be careful about how you treat your illness.

A lot of pain and fever reducers contain acetaminophen, as do many multi-symptom cold and flu treatments. Dr. William Lee, a liver disease expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says that’s why it’s very important to pay attention to the ingredients in the medicines you’re taking and make sure you don’t take too much acetaminophen. Too much acetaminophen in the system at one time or over an extended time can damage the liver or even cause liver failure that can be deadly. It’s very easy to overdose on this drug, which is safe when used properly. Drinking alcohol while taking acetaminophen can make matters even worse because it makes the drug more toxic to the liver.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in digestive.


November 2008

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