How much acetaminophen is safe?
I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile, however, I don’t want anyone feeling bad about how they help their children during illness. None of us want to see our children suffer, so I understand wanting to alleviate symptoms. My job here at Kula Mama is to provide holistic alternatives for children. In this space, there’s no judgement about parental decisions and I write for families who want holistic and natural healing practices for the home. Today I want to talk about using acetaminophen with children and to answer the question: how much acetaminophen is safe? So with that in mind, here we go!
When I was a young child, acetaminophen (found in the common fever reducer, Tylenol) was our go-to drug of choice when my sister or I came down with a fever. My mom didn’t think twice about giving it to us and when I became a mom myself I assumed Tylenol was the safest choice for children.
While I don’t usually give my children anything at all for a fever (see why a fever is a good thing in this post), there are certainly times when a fever reducer is necessary (sometimes in a child with a fever over 104 degrees for instance). However, I don’t own any products containing acetaminophen in my home anymore and don’t use this drug as my first course of action. Why? Here are the reasons I don’t use acetaminophen as a first choice.
1. Acetaminophen reduces glutathione levels in the body
Glutathione is the body’s most important antioxidant and one that helps us naturally combat free radicals in the body. One of glutathione’s main functions is to regulate the immune system. Acetaminophen has been found to deplete levels of glutathione in the body. Taking acetaminophen during illness hinders the immune system and makes it work harder to bring the body back to health.
2. Acetaminophen is toxic to the liver
Acetaminophen is responsible for most liver failures in our country (and in Canada). Many of these are accidental. How often has someone taken a “little more” than the dosage on the label? For a drug like acetaminophen, it’s important to stick to the recommended dosage, because using even a “little more” than the recommended dose over a few days can cause severe illness. For children, never use more than your doctor prescribes.
It’s important to note that no two livers function the same. So for children with poor liver function the risks of using acetaminophen, even at the recommended dosage, will be greater.
3. There is growing evidence that acetaminophen increases risk of asthma in children
Asthma is a condition that affects more and more children every year. I believe the reasons for this increase are varied and include environmental factors like air quality, water quality and food quality. More research is questioning the relationship between asthma and acetaminophen as well. So while research on this theory continues, it might be wise to limit acetaminophen use whenever possible, especially for children.
4. Acetaminophen is not a pain-reducer
Acetaminophen has been found to be no more effective than a placebo in reducing pain for children under 2. It’s been recommended by committees within the FDA that “pain relief” be removed from the labels of products for children and infants. This is interesting information for parents of young children with pain from ear infections, sore throats or injury.
So what should you use instead?
I know how it feels to have a little one with a fever as a parent. You want to alleviate the suffering for your child, I understand! The thing about fevers is…they are actually a GOOD thing for our children. A fever is the body’s way of burning out bacteria and viruses. When we use fever reducers we actually make it harder for our little ones to heal. If a child has a very high fever (over 104) then using a fever reducer might be best and it’s important to talk to your doctor in those situations. But in general a fever between 101 and 103 is the body doing great work to heal. There are things you can do to manage a fever naturally and I’ve written about them here in this post.
If your child is suffering from pain associated with illness, please check out my natural remedies for children ebook– it contains holistic strategies to help alleviate pain from ear infections, sore throats, etc.
How much acetaminophen is safe?
To answer the original question: how much acetaminophen is safe? The answer is…we don’t know for sure. We do know that due to the real dangers of liver toxicity, you should always use the dosage chart given by your pediatrician if you choose to use this drug at all. I’m not here to tell you NEVER to use this drug by writing a fear-inducing post (I hope you haven’t found this post fear-inducing!). Life presents us a series of choices in life and hopefully this post helps families make informed decisions no matter what they ultimately decide. While I’ll never tell you NEVER to use acetaminophen..I do feel the safest bet is to use acetaminophen as a very last resort. Try holistic strategies to manage a fever, ear infection, or sore throat as a first course of action instead. If those don’t work and you are dealing with a severe situation, then by all means talk to your doctor about using a safe dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen and work on boosting the immune system naturally, too.