How Long Does Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Last? (2023)

Headaches

ByCarrie Yuan, PharmD

How Long Does Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Last? (1)

Carrie Yuan, PharmD

Carrie Yuan PharmD is a board-certified ambulatory care pharmacist. She is a clinical pharmacist in the Family Medicine Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and a clinical associate professor at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy.

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Published on May 23, 2023

Medically reviewed byFemi Aremu, PharmD

How Long Does Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Last? (2)

Medically reviewed byFemi Aremu, PharmD

Femi Aremu, PharmD, is a professional pharmacist with experience in clinical and community pharmacy. He currently practices in Chicago, Illinois.

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Table of Contents

  • How Long Does Tylenol Last?

  • How Long Does Tylenol Take to Work?

  • How to Take Tylenol Safely

  • Tylenol Overdose and Toxicity

  • Frequently Asked Questions

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is commonly used to temporarily relieve mild pain and headaches, and lower fever. Its therapeutic effect lasts in the body for four to eight hours, depending on the dose and formulation taken.

A drug’s half-life is the time it takes to decrease by half of its starting concentration in the body.

A medication's half-life affects the duration of action and is one factor used in determining a suitable dosing interval. Drugs with a longer half-life take longer to leave the body, so they can be taken less frequently than drugs with a shorter half-life, like Tylenol, which must be taken multiple times daily to sustain its effects.

This article will discuss the different formulations of Tylenol, how long their effects last, and important safety considerations when taking acetaminophen.

How Long Does Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Last? (3)

How Long Does Tylenol Last?

Tylenol's pain-relieving and fever-reducing effects typically last four to six hours with the regular strength formulation. Extended-release formulations can last for about eight hours.

The half-life of Tylenol is 1.9 to 2.5 hours. Tylenol is metabolized by the liver, so half-life varies slightly from person to person based on the speed at which each person’s liver breaks down the drug.

Another factor that affects how long a drug works in the body (duration of action) is the dose taken.

By taking a higher dose of acetaminophen, you extend its duration of action since the higher starting concentration will take more half-lives to clear from the body.

For example, taking two 650-milligram (mg) tablets results in a much higher concentration than two 325-milligram tablets. Therefore, the 650-milligram tablets last longer in the body and don’t need to be taken as often.

The table below summarizes available preparations of Tylenol.

Preparations of Tylenol and Usual Doses
Product NameStrength per tabUsual doseDuration of action / Dosing intervalMaximum daily dose
Regular strength Tylenol, generic acetaminophen325 mg325-650 mg (1-2 tabs)4-6 hours10 tabs for adults, 5 tabs for children
Extra-strength Tylenol500 mg1000 mg (2 tabs)6 hours6 tabs for adults and children 12 and older
Tylenol 8-hour Arthritis Pain650 mg in 2-layer design; First layer is fast-dissolving and second layer dissolves more slowly1300 mg (2 tabs)8 hours6 tabs for adults
Tylenol 8-Hour Aches and Pains ER650 mg1300 mg (2 tabs)8 hours6 tabs for adults and children 12 and older

How Long Is Tylenol Detectable in Breast Milk?

When a lactating person takes Tylenol, peak levels in breast milk occur within one to two hours. However, it is undetectable after approximately 12 hours after ingestion.

Acetaminophen is a good choice for pain and fever relief in nursing individuals due to the small amount of drug transferred into breastmilk and the low incidence of adverse effects in nursing infants. Furthermore, acetaminophen is a drug used to treat infant fevers or pain.

How Long Does Tylenol Take to Work?

Tylenol tablets may start to work within 45 minutes of taking it for pain relief. However, the effervescent or dissolvable tablets may work more quickly—within 20 minutes. Still, the specific timing to when you will feel relief can vary from person to person.

How to Take Tylenol Safely

Tylenol is a safe medication when taken as directed. For extra-strength Tylenol (500 milligrams) and 650-milligram tablet formulations, wait six to eight hours between doses. Do not take more than six tablets in 24 hours unless directed by a healthcare provider.

For regular-strength Tylenol and acetaminophen 325-milligram tablets, wait four to six hours between doses. Do not take more than 10 tablets in 24 hours. For children under 12 years of age, consult a healthcare provider for dosing by weight.

Tylenol Overdose and Toxicity

Severe liver damage can occur from taking too much acetaminophen in a short time period.

The maximum dose of acetaminophen for adults is 4,000 milligrams in 24 hours for people with a healthy liver and five doses (1,625 milligrams) in 24 hours for children.

You may also be at risk of liver damage if you take Tylenol and:

  • Are taking other drugs containing acetaminophen at the same time
  • Drink three or more alcoholic beverages every day
  • Have existing liver problems

In these cases, your maximum daily dose of Tylenol may be lower.

Many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications contain acetaminophen (e.g., Dayquil, Nyquil, Excedrin, Percocet). The daily maximum dose counts all acetaminophen from all sources.

It is important to read medication labels to know the active ingredients in OTC and prescription medications you take. Note that acetaminophen is referred to as paracetamol in countries outside of the US and is the same medication.

Summary

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is an OTC medication commonly used to treat minor pain, headaches, and fevers. There are several different formulations that vary in strength and dosing.

Tylenol’s therapeutic effect typically lasts four to six hours, though taking an extended-release formulation or a larger dose can prolong the effects to about eight hours.

Be sure to read medicine labels to identify all OTC products that contain acetaminophen. The total daily dose of acetaminophen should not exceed 4,000 milligrams from all sources, as this can lead to liver damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does Tylenol last for a fever?

    The fever-reducing effects of Tylenol last about four to six hours, so it needs to be taken multiple times a day to treat an ongoing fever. Consult a healthcare provider if the fever lasts more than three days or worsens.

  • Is it OK to take Tylenol every day?

    Tylenol is intended for short-term use. Consult a healthcare provider if you need Tylenol for more than 10 days. Taking a pain reliever like Tylenol daily can sometimes worsen headaches or cause medication overuse headaches.

9 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. DailyMed. Label: Tylenol Regular Strength- acetaminophen tablet, film coated.

  2. Andrade C. The practical importance of half-life in psychopharmacology. J Clin Psychiatry. 2022;83(4):22f14584. doi:10.4088/JCP.22f14584

  3. DailyMed. Label: Tylenol Extra Strength- acetaminophen tablet, film coated.

  4. Forrest JA, Clements JA, Prescott LF. Clinical pharmacokinetics of paracetamol. Clin Pharmacokinet. 1982;7(2):93-107. doi:10.2165/00003088-198207020-00001

  5. National Library of Medicine Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®). Acetaminophen.

  6. Møller PL, Nørholt SE, Ganry HE, et al. Time to onset of analgesia and analgesic efficacy of effervescent acetaminophen 1000 mg compared to tablet acetaminophen 1000 mg in postoperative dental pain: a single-dose, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Pharmacol. 2000;40(4):370-378. doi:10.1177/00912700022009071

  7. DailyMed. Label: Tylenol 8 HR Arthritis Pain- acetaminophen tablet, extended release.

  8. MedlinePlus. Acetaminophen.

  9. Vandenbussche N, Laterza D, Lisicki M, et al. Medication-overuse headache: a widely recognized entity amidst ongoing debate. J Headache Pain. 2018;19(1):50. doi:10.1186/s10194-018-0875-x

How Long Does Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Last? (4)

By Carrie Yuan, PharmD
Carrie Yuan PharmD is a clinical pharmacist with expertise in chronic disease medication management for conditions encountered in primary care.

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FAQs

How Long Does Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Last? ›

The fever-reducing effects of Tylenol last about four to six hours, so it needs to be taken multiple times a day to treat an ongoing fever. Consult a healthcare provider if the fever lasts more than three days or worsens.

How long does Tylenol acetaminophen last? ›

The pain relief and fever reduction abilities of acetaminophen typically last about four hours. If your pain does not get better or if your fever does not start to come down after one to two hours, contact your doctor or pharmacist or prescriber to see if you need a larger dose or a different medication.

How long does it take for one Tylenol to wear off? ›

Tylenol usually lasts around five hours, but this can depend on the size and strength of the dosage. Most people will feel the pain relief effects of Tylenol within two hours after taking a dose. Extra Strength Tylenol may last even longer, while the effects of Tylenol Arthritis can persist for up to eight hours.

How long does 1000 mg of Tylenol last? ›

Tylenol is relatively safe when you take the recommended dose. In general, adults can take between 650 milligrams (mg) and 1,000 mg of acetaminophen every 4 to 6 hours.

Can I take Tylenol Extra Strength every 4 hours? ›

With Extra Strength Tylenol, patients can take 2 pills (each of which contains 500 mg of acetaminophen) every 4 to 6 hours; however, they should not take more than 8 pills in a 24-hour period.

What is the longest lasting Tylenol? ›

Tylenol 8-Hour Arthritis Pain contains 650 mg of acetaminophen with a unique double-layer design. The first layer dissolves quickly to release 325 mg of acetaminophen. The second layer is extended-release. Tylenol Arthritis provides relief that lasts for up to 8 hours.

Why does Tylenol take so long to work? ›

Official answer. The time it takes for Tylenol (acetaminophen) to start working depends on the formulation. Oral preparations must first dissolve in the stomach and then get absorbed into the bloodstream before they have an effect.

How long after Tylenol does it start working? ›

Acetaminophen is used to reduce fever and treat pain. Your child's symptoms should get better in 15 to 30 minutes after taking a dose.

Can I take 3 500mg Tylenol at once? ›

You should only take 1-2 pills of 500-mg Tylenol or acetaminophen at a time and no more than 6 pills in a 24-hour period. The maximum daily dose of Tylenol for a healthy adult who weighs at least 150 pounds is 4,000 mg.

Does 1000 mg Tylenol make you sleepy? ›

No, taking regular Tylenol does not make you sleepy or cause drowsiness. However, Tylenol PM which contains acetaminophen and diphenhydramine can cause sleepiness which explains why so it is used as a nighttime sleep aid.

Is it safe to take 1000 mg of Tylenol 3 times a day? ›

Healthy individuals should not take more than 1,000 mg of acetaminophen per dose and should not take more than 4,000 mg in one day. In addition, even healthy persons should avoid taking 3,000 mg of acetaminophen daily for more than 3 to 5 days.

What will 1000 mg of acetaminophen do? ›

Acetaminophen 1000 mg single dose led to a higher percentage of people with at least 50% of pain relief over six hours, and a larger decrease in pain intensity, as compared to acetaminophen 650 mg in various acute post-operative pain conditions.

Is it safe to take 2 Extra Strength Tylenol every night? ›

It is considered safe to take acetaminophen every day as long as you follow the recommended dosage guidelines of taking it every 4 to 6 hours, only take what you need, and do not exceed the maximum dosage of 4,000 mg per day (note that some experts believe a maximum limit of 3,000 mg per day is safer for those who take ...

How much Tylenol should I take for anxiety? ›

The researchers found that participants who were given a 1000 mg pill of Tylenol prior to the study tasks were less affected by the anxiety triggers compared to the participants who had received a placebo sugar pill.

Is Tylenol a blood thinner? ›

Does acetaminophen thin blood? Acetaminophen does not have blood-thinning effects. Most NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as aspirin, will affect blood clotting (coagulation), an effect commonly called "thinning the blood," but acetaminophen does not cause this side effect.

Is it OK to take old Tylenol? ›

Once the expiration date has passed there is no guarantee that the medicine will be safe and effective. If your medicine has expired, do not use it.

How long does 500mg Tylenol take to work? ›

Acetaminophen is used to reduce fever and treat pain. Your child's symptoms should get better in 15 to 30 minutes after taking a dose.

Does acetaminophen last longer than ibuprofen? ›

Alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen is an easy way to keep fever away. Acetaminophen is dosed every 4 to 6 hours (no more than 5 doses in a 24-hour period), while ibuprofen is dosed every 6 hours (no more than 4 doses in a 24-hour period).

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