Can you take paracetamol on an empty stomach?

MOST people take acetaminophen from time to time for general pain and discomfort.

When you’re out and about when you’re in pain – you might not always have a full stomach.

Most people have a strip of acetaminophen lying around - but if you're out and haven't eaten - should you take it anyway?


Most people have a strip of acetaminophen lying around – but if you’re out and haven’t eaten – should you take it anyway?Photo credit: Getty

But does it matter and can you take the pills on an empty stomach?

Here’s everything you need to know about paracetamol.

Can I take paracetamol before eating?

Paracetamol can be taken with or without food, according to the NHS.

As with all medicines, there are many do’s and don’ts, and acetaminophen is no different.

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How long does it take for paracetamol to work?

It is important to read the guidelines on the packaging and to consult your GP about any medications you are taking.

If you have taken too many paracetamol tablets, you should call 999.

How and when to take paracetamol?

You can use the drug to treat pain, pain and high temperature.

It is available in tablet form that you can swallow with water.

It is also available in syrup form or as a dissolvable tablet for those who have trouble swallowing whole tablets.

The NHS says the drug is safe to use at the right dose of one or two tablets up to four times in 24 hours.

For example, if you take your first dose of one or two tablets (or the equivalent alternative form) at 9:00 am, you should not take the second dose before 1:00 pm.

You could then take the third dose at 5pm and a fourth and final dose at 9pm, giving a total of four doses of one or two tablets in 24 hours.

Regardless of when you start taking acetaminophen, it’s important to always wait four hours before taking your next dose.

The guidelines state: “An overdose of acetaminophen can cause serious side effects. Don’t be tempted to increase the dose or double the dose if your pain is severe.”

Adherence to dosing guidelines is essential.

A University of Oxford study says: “Most people have no idea what the maximum daily dose of paracetamol is. In the UK, around one in four people often exceed the maximum daily dose.”

How long does it take for paracetamol to work?

Paracetamol takes up to an hour to work – after taking one or two 500mg tablets.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) states that “Paracetamol is available in immediate-release (short-acting) and modified-release (long-acting) preparations”.

However, researchers at Oxford University say that “acetaminophen may provide pain relief, but only for a small number of people. In the case of postoperative pain, perhaps one in four will benefit; for headaches maybe one in ten.”

If you have other medical concerns you should call the NHS helpline on 111.

It is always important to discuss any health issues with your GP. Can you take paracetamol on an empty stomach?

Sarah Y. Kim

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