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Paracetamol

Paracetamol is one of the most common medicines available. You can buy it from most supermarkets and pharmacies, but you’ll be restricted as to how many tablets you can purchase, so what if you need more? Packs of 100 or more of the medicine are only available on prescription, despite them being the same strength as smaller packs. However, due to the amount of the drug you’ll be receiving, it has tighter restrictions around it. Paracetamol is used for a wide range of ailments and conditions, and can relieve pain as well as reducing a high temperature, and people often need a large volume of them if they need to take paracetamol routinely. The drug can be taken by most people including pregnant women and breast feeding mothers.

See Paracetamol Patient Information Leaflet

PIL Updated on: 10/06/2019

Brand received may vary

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Paracetamol is one of the most common medicines available. You can buy it from most supermarkets and pharmacies, but you’ll be restricted as to how many tablets you can purchase, so what if you need more? Packs of 100 or more of the medicine are only available on prescription, despite them being the same strength as smaller packs. However, due to the amount of the drug you’ll be receiving, it has tighter restrictions around it. Paracetamol is used for a wide range of ailments and conditions, and can relieve pain as well as reducing a high temperature, and people often need a large volume of them if they need to take paracetamol routinely. The drug can be taken by most people including pregnant women and breast feeding mothers.

See Paracetamol Patient Information Leaflet

PIL Updated on: 10/06/2019

Brand received may vary

Details

What is paracetamol?

Paracetamol is an extremely common medicine that’s used to relieve mild to moderate pain and also to reduce a high temperature. It’s available as both a generic medicine, and as branded versions. Paracetamol is available on a general sale license, meaning that it’s available from most supermarkets and pharmacies. However, supermarkets are restricted to selling a maximum of 16 tablets, whilst pharmacies can only sell 32 tablets over the counter. Quantities of paracetamol that exceed this are classed as a prescription-only medicine, despite being the same strength, but this is due to the amount of the drug that you’ll be receiving. Paracetamol is often recommended as a first line treatment for mild to moderate pain due to how safe the medicine is and the rarity of side effects.

Who can take Paracetamol?

One of the great things about paracetamol is that most people can take it, even pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Children are also able to take it if advised by a doctor, so there are only very few groups that need to avoid the medicine or speak to a GP before using it. If you have any of the following conditions of medical problems, you should speak to your doctor before using paracetamol for pain relief:

Allergy to paracetamol
Severe liver problems
Severe kidney problems
Liver problem caused by alcohol
Problems with alcohol
Very underweight

If none of these problems apply to you, it should be safe for you to use paracetamol short-term for pain relief or to reduce a high temperature.

Does paracetamol interact with other medicines?

Despite being one of the most commonly used medicines for a wide range of ailments and conditions, paracetamol does interact with some other drugs. It’s always important to read the patient information leaflets of any of the medicines you take to make sure that none of them interact with each other, but here’s a list of some of the drugs that interact with paracetamol:

Anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin
Metoclopramide
Domperidone
Carbamazepine
Colestyramine
Imatinib
Busulfan
Ketoconazole
Lixisenatide
Phenobarbital
Phenytoin
Primidone

If you still aren’t sure whether any of your medicines interact with paracetamol, please visit your local pharmacy and ask them whether it’s safe for you to take it alongside your current medications.

How much paracetamol should I take?

This depends on the amount of pain you’re in, or how much paracetamol is effective at reducing the pain. The standard dose for adults is usually 1-2 500mg tablets every 4-6 hours, with no more than 4 doses to be taken in any 24 hour period. In other words, you shouldn’t take more than 8 tablets in 24 hours. As with many medicines, you should take the lowest dose effective for the shortest time possible, but as paracetamol is a fairly safe drug, as long as you don’t take more than the stated dose, you shouldn’t suffer any adverse effects.

What are the side effects of paracetamol?

Side effects with paracetamol are rare, which is why the medicine is recommended as a first-line treatment for many conditions, but it’s important to know that they can still happen. Your patient information leaflet (PIL) will explain all of the side effects, but generally, the most commonly reported ones are:

  • Allergic reactions (if this happens, please seek urgent help)
  • Blood disorders (thrombocytopenia and leukopenia)
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage

Whilst side effects are rare, the risk is increased if you take more paracetamol than you should (an overdose), especially liver and kidney damage. An overdose can cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, but can also be asymptomatic (no symptoms at all). If you know you’ve taken more paracetamol than you should have done, you should seek urgent help even if you don’t have any symptoms. Overdosing on most medications can have serious consequences.

What can paracetamol treat?

Paracetamol is the go-to medicine for many people across the country, and it’s known for being versatile as well as safe. Some of the most common conditions and ailments it’s used for are:

Headaches
Toothaches
Menstrual periods
Cold
Flu
Sprains
Other causes of mild pain
High temperature

If you experience mild to moderate pain, your first port of call should usually be paracetamol. If that doesn’t relieve your pain and you don’t have access to any other painkillers, make an appointment with your GP. If your pain is more severe, you should seek urgent help as it might be a sign that something is wrong.

Can I take paracetamol with other medicines?

There are many medicines that can be taken alongside paracetamol, most famously, ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) that’s around a similar strength to paracetamol but works in a different way. As long as you can take ibuprofen, it’s safe and common to take the two medicines together. Many people stagger their doses so they’re taking some form of pain killer every 2-4 hours. Ibuprofen and paracetamol work well together to relieve pain, so check with your local pharmacist if it’s safe for you to take the NSAID. Paracetamol is also included with other medicines such as codeine to create co-codamol. If you’re prescribed something that contains paracetamol as well as another drug, don’t take any more paracetamol as you risk overdosing. Paracetamol is also included in popular remedies such as:

  • Night nurse
  • Sudafed
  • Lemsip

As well as some others. Always check if your medication contains paracetamol before taking any more of it. Ask a pharmacist if you aren’t sure.

How does paracetamol work?

Although it’s been widely used for over a century, it’s still not fully understood how paracetamol relieves pain. It’s thought to block chemical messages in the brain that tell us we have pain, and possibly reduces the amount of prostaglandins that our bodies release as a response to pain. In terms of reducing a high temperature, paracetamol affects the chemical messengers in the area of the brain where temperature is regulated.

How long does paracetamol take to work?

Paracetamol can take up to an hour to work in your body, so you should wait for at least this amount of time to pass before taking anything else. If your pain hasn’t been reduced or your symptoms have got worse, it might be an idea to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss pain relief options.

How long does paracetamol last?

Most people find that the effects of paracetamol last around 5 hours. You can take your next dose of paracetamol 4 hours after the last dose so you can avoid the medication wearing off.

How do you take paracetamol?

Paracetamol in its most common form comes as a tablet. These should be swallowed whole with water. With this medicine, it doesn’t matter if you take them on an empty stomach or with food. There are other forms of paracetamol, which include:

  • Capsules
  • Liquid
  • Soluble tablets
  • Suppositories
  • Injection into vein (hospital-only)
  • If you have any of the above, your patient information leaflet should give you instructions on how to take the drug.

    Dosage instructions
    Take 1-2 tablets up to four times a day as required. Do not take more than 8 tablets per day (24 hours). For oral administration and short term use only. Swallow the tablets with water