Health Watch - Colds and Flu: Medication

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’re talking about cold and flu season. If following protective measures like washing your hands, getting a flu shot and staying away from sick people hasn’t worked and you still get sick, you may need cold or flu medication to ease your symptoms. Just be careful about what you take.

Acetaminophen, a pain and fever reducer, is a common ingredient in a lot of multi-symptom cold and flu medicines. Dr. William Lee, a liver expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says if you take more than one medication – like something for your cough and cold symptoms and a pain reliever, it’s very easy to end up with an overdose of acetaminophen. Too much acetaminophen in your system at one time or high levels over a long period of time could damage your liver, leading to liver failure and even death. Alcohol makes the damage worse. Read the label before taking any medication and make sure you’re not getting more than a safe daily amount of acetaminophen.

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January 2011


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