Anyone who is showing signs of acetaminophen poisoning should be taken to the emergency room. If it is established that an overdose occurred, the person may be given an antidote (N-acetylcysteine or NAC), which is most effective if given within the first 8-12 hours following ingestion. The person may also receive other medicines to help treat symptoms.
If it is suspected that some of the drug is still in the stomach (usually within 4 hours after ingestion), the person may be given activated charcoal, which absorbs any residual drug and prevents it from being absorbed into the body. Within about 1 hour of ingestion, someone may receive gastric lavage. It involves pumping liquid, usually water or saline, into the stomach and suctioning the liquid and other stomach contents out through a tube.
Sometimes extensive liver damage occurs despite treatment with the antidote N-acetylcysteine. If liver failure results after an overdose, a liver transplant may be necessary.
This article was last reviewed on October 14, 2014. | This article was last modified on October 14, 2014.
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