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Unintentional Overdoses and Medicine Labels: What You Need to Know

Chances are you’ve come into contact with a label today. Whether on a breakfast bar, a tube of toothpaste, or a bottle of sunscreen, labels are part of our daily lives and provide important health information and directions to keep us safe.

When it comes to medicine, the majority of people say that they read and follow labels. Yet common dosing mistakes can cause people to take too much medicine. Taking more of a medicine than directed is an overdose. Research shows that with acetaminophen, a common pain reliever and fever reducer, almost half of overdoses are unintentional. Additional research shows that when people exceed the daily limit of 4,000 milligrams (mg), they do so by taking the next dose too soon, using multiple products that contain acetaminophen, and/or taking too much at one time.

Acetaminophen is the most common drug ingredient, found in more than 600 prescription and over-the-counter medicines and used by 50 million Americans every week. It’s safe and effective when used as directed, but taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage. In fact, these unintentional acetaminophen overdoses drive thousands of hospitalizations every year.

Did you know acetaminophen is highlighted on over-the-counter medicine labels to help you only take one product that contains the ingredient at a time? As a proud partner of the Know Your Dose campaign, the National Headache Foundation encourages you to always read and follow your medicine label. Learn more about how to read your medicine label at

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