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What Is an Acetaminophen Injection?

Jillian O Keeffe
Jillian O Keeffe

Acetaminophen is a painkilling medicine that lessens fever. One form of delivery of the drug is through an injection into a vein, and this acetaminophen injection may also be used in conjunction with another painkiller if a patient needs a significant amount of of pain control. Each injection takes about 15 minutes, but patients can get more injections throughout the day if the pain is long-term.

Although acetaminophen is a common over the counter drug in many countries taken for minor complaints such as headaches or back pain, an acetaminophen injection is typically available only by prescription. An acetaminophen injection is usually given for pain that does not necessitate a strong painkiller. Pain and fever frequently occur together, as these are both key components of the body's immune system. Scientists believe that acetaminophen alters the body's recognition of pain signals from the affected area, and also works by lowering the level of fever in the body.

Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

This method of administering a painkiller is not a simple injection, but rather one that releases the drug slowly into the body through a needle into a vein. Typically, the needle stays in place for about 15 minutes and the drug is released slowly into the bloodstream. If the patient's pain and fever is likely to return after a few hours, the patient may receive more injections about every six hours, to keep the pain at bay.

Several side effects can occur with an acetaminophen injection, but most often these are not serious. Patients can feel sick, or vomit, while others may experience significant constipation. Adults may also suffer headaches, or have trouble sleeping after taking this drug. The point on the body where the needle punctured the vein can also become quite sore. Children can complain of itchy skin or their behavior can become agitated; more seriously, it is also possible that part of their lungs could collapse, causing difficulty with breathing.

Alternative names for acetaminophen include paracetamol, N-acetyl-para-aminophenol or the acronym for N-acetyl-para-aminophenol, which is APAP. Pregnant or breastfeeding women may be unsuitable candidates for the treatment, as not enough data is known about its safety in these circumstances. Some other drugs can also interact badly with the medication, such as those that thin the blood like warfarin, and if a patient has liver problems then acetaminophen is most likely not safe to take.

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