One in four Brits are making 'dangerous mistakes'when taking paracetamol, says doctor

Close up showing a woman's hand, ready to take medicine with a glass of water, having taken the pills out of the blister pack.
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)


When a headache arises, reaching for a painkiller is usually the first move to help ease symptoms, but an expert has explained why people shouldn't rely on them too much.

Medical experts have sounded an alarm for those who consume more than the recommended dose of paracetamol, warning that they might be unknowingly damaging their body.

Investigations have revealed that one in eight UK residents rely on paracetamol daily, reports Gloucestershire Live. More worryingly, studies show that one in four Brits are consuming too much, often surpassing the maximum daily limit of eight tablets.

Roughly 25 per cent of the British population suffer from persistent pain. However, research underscores the detrimental side effects from long-term usage of such painkillers.

Dr Gerard Sinovich, Lead Pain Consultant at Alternaleaf warns: "Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol are pretty much a 'default' pain treatment in this country. However, it shouldn't actually be used for more than three consecutive days without consulting with a doctor.

"There is very little education in this country around the long term effects that frequent usage can have. From liver failure to kidney damage and breathing problems, the long term side effects can be extremely damaging."

Dr Gerard Sinovich, the Lead Pain Consultant at Alternaleaf, a private health clinic in the UK, has laid out five detrimental effects daily intake of painkillers can have, according to his expertise.

Five signs you're taking too much paracetamol

1. Tiredness and fatigue

"One of the most frequent side effects of paracetamol is exhaustion and fatigue, due to the acetaminophen content of the drug. If it is taken regularly, then it's likely a person will regularly feel tired and drowsy more of the time."

2. Respiratory problems

"Research shows that frequent paracetamol use can lead to a significant increase in the probability of wheezing. It is also associated with an increase in asthma symptoms, and the effect is greater, the more the drug is taken."

3. Liver failure

"Liver injury can occur with regular paracetamol intake, at or below the recommended daily dose, which is one or two 500mg tablets at a time, up to four times in 24 hours with a maximum of eight tablets in 24 hours according to the NHS. Studies have shown that paracetamol can damage the liver by harming vital structural connections between adjacent cells in the organ."

"In fact, unintentional overdose of paracetamol is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the UK and US. In 2021, 227 deaths in England and Wales were due to paracetamol overdose as a result of liver failure."

4. Heart attack

"Studies have shown that regularly taking paracetamol that contains sodium is linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and death. Sodium, which is one of the main components of salt, is often used to help drugs such as paracetamol dissolve in water."

"However, if a person takes the maximum daily dose of paracetamol, they would also be exceeding the 2g maximum daily dose of sodium. Research shows that regularly taking paracetamol containing sodium over a long period of time, can massively increase a person's risk of heart attack, stroke, or heart failure, regardless of whether they have high blood pressure or not."

5. Fingers and lips can go blue

"In rare cases, allergic reactions to paracetamol can cause the skin, tongue, or lips to turn blue, grey or pale. Other indications of an allergic reaction include the lips, mouth or tongue suddenly becoming swollen, feeling exceptionally dizzy and drowsy, and extremely fast breathing or struggling to breathe."

"If you do experience any of these symptoms after taking paracetamol, it's important to call 999 immediately."

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