Thursday, September 28

What is Acetaminophen? How Can It Be Taken?


Are you wondering what is acetaminophen? This OTC drug, also known as paracetamol, is a popular and affordable painkiller and fever reducer. It’s available both under the brand name Tylenol and as various generics. Acetaminophen has a wide variety of delivery systems, each tailored to different patient needs.


Acetaminophen capsules have the drug encapsulated inside a hard shell, usually of gelatin. This encapsulation, along with the oblong shape of the pill itself, makes it fairly easy to swallow. It can take about 30 minutes for the capsule to dissolve, releasing its medication into the body.


This delivery system involves a mix of acetaminophen, binders, and other agents. The mix has been compressed into a firm oblong or disc shape. It is often lightly coated to block the taste of the medication. There are few differences between these and capsules. The choice between them is generally down to patient preference.

Effervescent Tablets

These tablets contain acetaminophen and other agents that cause it to dissolve in water. It may contain added flavor to improve the taste. The tablet itself is dropped into six ounces of water, and the resulting liquid is drunk when it stops fizzing. This is a good option for children who may be fussy about pills as well as adults that struggle to swallow.

Liquid Suspension

Liquid acetaminophen is similar to the effervescent tablets above except this does not require the additional step of adding water. This is typically a medicated syrup marketed toward children who may be resistant to any other delivery system. It’s important to check the right dosage for the child’s age and weight. Consult a doctor before administering liquid acetaminophen to a child under two years old.


Acetaminophen suppositories work by the absorption of the drug through the rectum. These suppositories typically contain inactive ingredients that melt with the body’s heat, releasing the medication over time. This delivery system is an alternative for people unable to swallow pills. It may also be appropriate for people with nausea, as it bypasses the stomach entirely.


Acetaminophen can be administered via intramuscular injections or intravenously. This is done either alone or with other substances to deliver greater pain relief. Injections skip the entire digestion and absorption process, delivering the drug directly into the body. They offer fast relief for patients who are not able to tolerate other delivery systems.

When considering what is acetaminophen’s best delivery system, the individual’s needs and preferences are foremost. Some people cannot tolerate it in pill or suppository form and prefer fast-acting injections. Others may appreciate the convenience of a syrup or effervescent tablet. There are options on the market for almost every situation.