Acetaminophen and children

Find out how children can safely be given acetaminophen.

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Usage

Acetaminophen is found in many medications for children and is used to treat:

  • flu
  • pain
  • fever
  • sinus
  • allergies

Safety

Always check the ingredients before giving medication to your child.

You should never give your child:

  • an adult product if they're younger than age 12
  • more than the recommended dose in a 24-hour period
  • more than one medication that contains acetaminophen at the same time, such as:
    • a pain reliever
    • cold and flu medicine

Before giving medication with acetaminophen to your child:

  • check the date the medication expires
  • read and follow the instructions on the label
  • check how much acetaminophen is in the medication

Proper dosage

The right dose of acetaminophen for your child is based on age and weight.

If you have concerns or questions, talk to your pharmacist or health professional, especially if your child:

  • is younger than 4 months of age
  • weighs less than 5.5 kg (12 lbs.)

Different liquid medications have different concentrations of acetaminophen. For infants up to 23 months old, the concentration is 80 mg in 1 mL. For children older than age 2, the concentration is 160 mg in 5 mL.

Dosage guide

For infants, based on a concentration of 80 mg in 1mL
Age Weight Dose
0 to 3 months old 2 kg to 5.4 kg (6 lbs. to 11 lbs.) Talk to your doctor
4 to 11 months old 5.5 kg to 7.9 kg (12 lbs. to 17 lbs.) 80 mg (1 mL)
12 to 23 months old 8 kg to 10.9 kg (18 lbs. to 23 lbs.) 120 mg (1.5 mL)
For children, based on a concentration of 160 mg in 5 mL
Age Weight Dose
2 to 3 years old 11 kg to 15.9 kg (24 lbs.to 35 lbs.) 160 mg (5 mL)
4 to 5 years old 16 kg to 21.9 kg (36 lbs.to 47 lbs.) 240 mg (7.5 mL)
6 to 8 years old 22 kg to 26.9 kg (48 lbs.to 59 lbs.) 320 mg (10 mL)
9 to 10 years old 27 kg to 31.9 kg (60 lbs.to 71 lbs.) 400 mg (12.5 mL)
11 years old 32 kg to 43.9 kg (72 lbs.to 95 lbs.) 480 mg (15 mL)

Always:

  • use the oral syringe or plastic cup that comes with the medication
    • a kitchen spoon does not hold the right amount of medicine
  • keep track of when and how much you give your child
  • check with the caregiver so you don't accidentally give a dose that has already been given

After each use:

  • put the cap on tightly
  • store out of reach and sight of children

Health risks

While acetaminophen is safe and effective when used as directed, taking too much can harm your child's health. Misuse may lead to:

  • an overdose
  • liver damage
  • liver transplant
  • death

Liver damage may occur if too much acetaminophen builds up in the liver. The risk of liver damage from acetaminophen may be higher for children who:

  • have liver disease
  • use acetaminophen for longer than recommended

If you think your child has taken too much acetaminophen, call your provincial poison control centre right away.

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