Health Watch - Getting Sick: 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 winter illnesses like colds and the flu. You can take some steps toward preventing illness, and researchers are studying ways to protect people from viruses. But if you do get sick, you should be careful about how you ease your symptoms.

When you buy cold and flu medicines, you need to pay attention to the ingredient label. That’s because acetaminophen is a common ingredient in multisymptom cold and flu medicines. Dr. William Lee, a liver disease expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says it’s easy to overdose on acetaminophen if you are taking multiple medications – such as medicine for arthritis pain and cold medicine. Although acetaminophen is safe when used properly, an overdose can cause serious liver damage, liver failure or even death. You shouldn’t take more than 4,000 milligrams of acetaminophen a day, and alcohol makes acetaminophen more damaging.

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February 2010


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