Paracetamol poisoning treatment

Paracetamol is a common painkiller that is normally safe. If you take more than the recommended amount (an overdose), it can harm the liver, and occasionally the kidneys.

The medical team will assess you. Based on the information that you give them and the results of your blood tests, they will decide if you need treatment to reduce the chance of damage to your liver. Not all patients will need treatment.

Having acetylcysteine treatment

The treatment is a medicine called acetylcysteine. It is given as 2 infusions, and takes about 12 hours. We give it to you through a thin, plastic tube that's inserted into a vein in your arm. This is called a drip, or intravenous (IV) infusion.

This treatment might cause mild side effects, such as itching, and feeling or being sick.

Making sure you are not at risk

Checking your blood

If you have acetylcysteine treatment, we’ll check your blood afterwards to see if there has been any damage to your liver.

If your blood tests relating to paracetamol overdose were normal, you are at a very low risk of damage to your liver from this overdose.

If the blood tests were abnormal, there may be a small chance of developing liver damage, or existing damage getting worse, if you take paracetamol too soon. We will discuss the results with you, and you might need more treatment.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you how long you should avoid taking paracetamol for. If you have any questions about this please ask a doctor or nurse before you leave the hospital.

Leaving hospital

It is only safe for you to leave hospital when your blood tests show that you are not at risk of liver problems.

It's important that you give us accurate information about the tablets that you took. We use this information to assess you and your risk of liver damage.

Are you certain:

  • when you took the tablets?
  • how many tablets you took?
  • if you took the tablets all together or over more than an hour?

If you forget to give us this information, or think that something you told us might not be correct, tell a doctor or nurse immediately, and before you leave.

After you leave hospital

You only leave the hospital when the team looking after you think that your risk of liver damage is very low. If you follow our doctors’ advice, it is unlikely that you will have side effects from your paracetamol overdose.

Go to the nearest emergency department (A&E) if:

  • you have stomach pain
  • you feel sick (nausea) or are being sick (vomiting)
  • your skin or eyes look yellow (jaundice)
  • you have a very bad headache
  • you feel confused or drowsy (sleepy)
  • you do not pee for 8 hours

Resource number: 3770/VER4
Last reviewed: May 2023
Next review: May 2026

Contact us

If you have questions or concerns about your treatment, contact NHS 111 or your GP service.

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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