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Acetaminophen dosing for children

Tylenol

Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help children with colds and fever feel better. As with all drugs, it is important to give children the correct dose. Acetaminophen is safe when taken as directed. But taking too much of this medicine can be harmful.

How Acetaminophen Can Help Your Child

Acetaminophen is used to help:

  • Reduce aches, pain, sore throat, and fever in children with a cold or the flu
  • Relieve pain from a headache or toothache

Proper Dosing of Liquids and Tablets

Children's acetaminophen can be taken as liquid or chewable tablet.

If your child is under 2 years old, check with your health care provider before giving your child acetaminophen.

To give the correct dose, you will need to know your child's weight.

You also need to know how much acetaminophen is in a tablet, teaspoon (tsp), or 5 milliliters (mL) of the product you are using. You can read the label to find out.

  • For chewable tablets, the label will tell you how many milligrams (mg) are found in each tablet, such as 80 mg per tablet.
  • For liquids, the label will tell you how many mg are found in 1 tsp or in 5 mL, such as 160 mg/1 tsp or 160 mg/5 mL.

For syrups, you will need some type of dosing syringe. It may come with the medicine, or you can ask your pharmacist. Make sure to clean it out after each use.

If your child weighs 24 to 35 lbs or 11 to 16 kilograms (kg):

  • For syrup that says 160 mg/5 mL on the label: Give a dose: 5 mL
  • For syrup that says 160 mg/1 tsp on the label: Give a dose: 1 tsp
  • For chewable tablets that say 80 mg on the label: Give a dose: 2 tablets

If your child weighs 36 to 47 lbs or 16 to 21 kg:

  • For syrup that says 160 mg/5 mL on the label: Give a dose: 7.5 mL
  • For syrup that says 160 mg/1 tsp on the label: Give a dose: 1 ½ tsp
  • For chewable tablets that say 80 mg on the label: Give a dose: 3 tablets

If your child weighs 48 to 59 lbs or 22 to 27 kg:

  • For syrup that says 160 mg/5 mL on the label: Give a dose: 10 mL
  • For syrup that says 160 mg/1 tsp on the label: Give a dose: 2 tsp
  • For chewable tablets that say 80 mg on the label: Give a dose: 4 tablets

If your child weighs 60 to 71 lbs or 28 to 32 kg:

  • For syrup that says 160 mg/5 mL on the label: Give a dose: 12.5 mL
  • For syrup that says 160 mg/1 tsp on the label: Give a dose: 2 ½ tsp
  • For chewable tablets that say 80 mg on the label: Give a dose: 5 tablets
  • For chewable tablets that say 160 mg on the label: Give a dose: 2 ½ tablets

If your child weighs 72 to 95 lbs or 33 to 43 kg:

  • For syrup that says 160 mg/5 mL on the label: Give a dose: 15 mL
  • For syrup that says 160 mg/1 tsp on the label: Give a dose: 3 tsp
  • For chewable tablets that say 80 mg on the label: Give a dose: 6 tablets
  • For chewable tablets that say 160 mg on the label: Give a dose: 3 tablets

If your child weighs 96 lbs or 43.5 kg or more:

  • For syrup that says 160 mg/5 mL on the label: Give a dose: 20 mL
  • For syrup that says 160 mg/1 tsp on the label: Give a dose: 4 tsp
  • For chewable tablets that say 80 mg on the label: Give a dose: 8 tablets
  • For chewable tablets that say 160 mg on the label: Give a dose: 4 tablets

You may repeat the dose every 4 to 6 hours as needed. DO NOT give your child more than 5 doses in 24 hours.

If you are not sure how much to give your child, call your health care provider.

Proper Dosing of Suppositories

If your child is vomiting or will not take oral medicine, you can use suppositories. Suppositories are placed in the anus to deliver medicine.

You can use suppositories in children older than 6 months. Always check with your health care provider before giving any medicine to children under 2 years old.

This medicine is given every 4 to 6 hours.

If your child is 6 to 11 months:

  • For infant suppositories that read 80 milligrams (mg) on the label: Give a dose: 1 suppository every 6 hours
  • Maximum dose: 4 doses in 24 hours

If your child is 12 to 36 months:

  • For infant suppositories that read 80 mg on the label: Give a dose: 1 suppository every 4 to 6 hours
  • Maximum dose: 5 doses in 24 hours

If your child is 3 to 6 years:

  • For children's suppositories that read 120 mg on the label: Give a dose: 1 suppository every 4 to 6 hours
  • Maximum dose: 5 doses in 24 hours

If your child is 6 to 12 years:

  • For junior-strength suppositories that read 325 mg on the label: Give a dose: 1 suppository every 4 to 6 hours
  • Maximum dose: 5 doses in 24 hours

If your child is 12 years and over:

  • For junior-strength suppositories that read 325 mg on the label: Give a dose: 2 suppositories every 4 to 6 hours
  • Maximum dose: 6 doses in 24 hours

Giving Medicine to Children

Make sure you do not give your child more than one medicine that contains acetaminophen as an ingredient. For example, acetaminophen can be found in many cold remedies. Read the label before giving any medicine to children. You should not give medicine with more than one active ingredient to children under age 6.

When giving medicine to children, also be sure to follow important child medication safety tips.

If Your Child Takes Too Much

Be sure to post the number for the poison control center by your phone. If you think your child has taken too much medicine, call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. It is open 24 hours a day. Signs may include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, and abdominal pain.

Go to the nearest emergency room. Your child may need:

  • To get activated charcoal. Charcoal stops the body from absorbing the medicine. It has to be given within an hour, and it does not work for every medicine.
  • To be admitted to the hospital so they can be watched closely
  • Blood tests to see what the medicine is doing
  • To have their heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure monitored

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if:

  • You are not sure about the dose of medicine to give your infant or child
  • You are having trouble getting your child to take medicine
  • Your child's symptoms do not go away when you would expect them to go away
  • Your child is an infant and has signs of illness, such as fever

References

American Academy of Pediatrics (healthychildren.org). Acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.) Dosage Table. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/Symptom-Checker/Pages/Acetaminophen-Dosage-Table.aspx. Accessed September 29, 2014.

US Food and Drug Administration. Reducing Fever in Children: Safe Use of Acetaminophen. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm263989.htm#Tips. Accessed September 29, 2014.

Review Date: 11/20/2014

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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