Types of Tylenol: How to Choose, Dosage, Safety

The best option for your symptoms

There are many types of over-the-counter (OTC) Tylenol—the popular brand name version of the generic drug acetaminophen. Depending on the symptoms you have, you may choose one formulation or strength of Tylenol over another.

This article reviews the different Tylenol products, and how they are alike and different. You will learn which type of Tylenol can be used for relief from arthritis pain, a headache, sinus discomfort, menstrual cramps, and other symptoms.

Which Tylenol is Right for You?

Verywell / Laura Porter

Types of Tylenol

The active ingredient in all OTC Tylenol products is acetaminophen, which works primarily to relieve pain and fight fevers.

The main difference between the types of Tylenol is the amount of acetaminophen in each one. For example, stronger formulations are meant to relieve more intense types of pain.

Tylenol also comes in different forms—for example, there are liquids, dissolvable powders, chewable tablets, caplets, and capsules.

Regular Strength Tylenol

The original Tylenol, Regular Strength Tylenol, contains 325 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen per tablet/capsule.

Adults and children 12 years and over can take two tablets/capsules every four to six hours as needed, but no more than 10 tablets/capsules in 24 hours.

Extra-Strength Tylenol

Extra-Strength Tylenol contains 500 mg acetaminophen per tablet/capsule. Adults and kids 12 and over can safely take two tablets/capsules every six hours as needed, but no more than eight tablets/capsules in 24 hours.

If you're using Extra Strength Tylenol, don't take it for more than 10 days in a row unless your healthcare provider says you should.

Tylenol 8-Hour Arthritis Pain

Tylenol 8-Hour Arthritis Pain contains 650 mg acetaminophen per caplet. Although it's marketed for arthritis pain, it also can bring temporary relief for more general muscle aches, back pain, menstrual cramps, discomfort from a cold or flu, and toothache.

It has a double-layer design. The first layer provides fast relief and the second offers continuous all-day relief in an extended-release formula. Because the first layer is meant to dissolve quickly for immediate relief, this type of Tylenol should be swallowed whole with water.

Adults can take one to two caplets every eight hours, but no more than six caplets in 24 hours.

Tylenol 8-Hour Aches and Pains ER

Tylenol 8-Hour Aches and Pains Extended-Release is basically the same as the formulation for arthritis pain. This type of Tylenol contains 650 mg acetaminophen per caplet, has the same bi-layer design, and is formulated to relieve minor muscle aches and body pain fast and to last all day.

Tylenol products designed to help relieve cold symptoms or sinus discomfort contain another active ingredient called phenylephrine. This ingredient relieves congestion by shrinking blood vessels in the nasal passages.

Adults and children 12 years and over can take two caplets every eight hours, swallowed whole with water, and no more than six caplets in 24 hours.

Types of Tylenol for Infants and Children

There are specific Tylenol products for babies and kids. Many formulations treat symptoms similar to the products for adults, like colds and the flu.

However, these products come in smaller doses and are made to be easier for children to take.

Children’s Tylenol Liquid

Several liquid formulations of Tylenol are available for children ages 2 to 11. Like the adult versions, Children’s Tylenol comes in different formulations to treat specific symptoms. 

For example, Children’s Tylenol Cold + Cough + Runny Nose has acetaminophen plus other ingredients in it that help with a cough.

The liquids also come in flavors like grape and cherry, which can make it a bit easier for children to take them.

There is also a liquid Children’s Tylenol that is made without dyes. It also does not contain parabens or high fructose corn syrup. 

The medication comes with a special cup that caregivers can use to measure out the correct dose. 

Children’s Tylenol Dissolve Powder Packs

Another version of Tylenol that kids ages 6 to 11 comes in the form of a powder. It can either be dissolved in water and made into a drink or allowed to dissolve on a child’s tongue.

Like the liquid Tylenol, the powder packs are fruit-flavored. 

The recommended dose depends on a child's age and weight. 

Children’s Tylenol Chewables

Chewable Children’s Tylenol comes in bubblegum and grape-flavored tablets. It can be given to kids ages 2 to 11. 

The dose depends on a child’s weight and age. Some children will need to take more than one chewable. 

Infants’ Tylenol Liquid

Infants’ Tylenol Liquid is made for children ages 2 to 3 years. Sometimes, children younger than age 2 might be able to take the medication with their pediatrician’s OK.

Like the liquid version for older kids, Infants’ Tylenol comes in grape and cherry flavors and can be given to help with cold symptoms, toothaches, and fevers. There is also a dye-free version

The medication comes with a dropper to help caregivers measure the right dose. 

Tylenol PM

Tylenol also makes products that are meant to be used at night. In addition to pain relief from acetaminophen, some of these products have ingredients in them to help you sleep.

Other Types of Tylenol 

Tylenol also makes many symptom and condition-specific products. For example, you can get Tylenol products for:

  • Headaches and muscle pain
  • Sinus pain
  • Cold and flu 
  • Arthritis 

There are also other types of Tylenol that you can’t buy over the counter. For example, your provider might prescribe you a higher dose or stronger strength of Tylenol after you have surgery. 

Recommended Dosages

The reason it's important to know how much acetaminophen is in each type of Tylenol and to follow the dosage directions carefully is that there's a very real danger of severe liver damage from taking too much acetaminophen at one time. This seems straightforward, but it can be tricky.

There are non-Tylenol medications that contain acetaminophen, including prescription narcotic pain relievers and cold-and-flu remedies which include acetaminophen as an ingredient.

Adult Dosage

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adults should not take more than 4,000 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.

If you're taking one of these products, do not take OTC Tylenol at the same time as it may put your daily dose over the maximum daily dose recommended by the FDA.

Child Dosage

The safe maximum dose per 24 hours for children under 12 is 90 mg.

When you’re giving Tylenol to babies and kids, it’s important to remember that the dose depends on how old they are and how much they weigh. The Tylenol product and the form it comes in will also determine the correct dose.

Infants’ Tylenol Liquid (160 mg/5ml)

Infants' Tylenol Liquid is meant for children ages 2 to 3 who weigh between 24 and 35 pounds. The dose is 5 ml.

Children’s Tylenol Liquid (160 mg/5ml)
Weight: 24-35 lbs  36-47 lbs 48-59 lbs 60-71 lbs 72-95 lbs
Age: 2-3 years 4-5 years 6-8 years 9-10 years 11 years
Dose: 5 ml 7.5 ml 10 ml 12.5 ml 15 ml
Children’s Tylenol Chewable tablet (160 mg/tablet)
 Weight:  24-35 lbs  36-47 lbs  48-59 lbs  60-71 lbs 72-95 lbs
 Age:  2-3 years  4-5 years  6-8 years  9-10 years 11 years
 Dose:  1 tablet  1 and 1/2 tablets  2 tablets  2 and 1/2 tablets 3 tablets
Children’s Tylenol Dissolve Packs (160 mg/pack)
Weight: 48-59 lbs  60-71 lbs 72-95 lbs
Age: 6-8 years 9-10 years 11 years
Dose: 2 packets 2 packets 3 packets 

Concerns and Considerations

Despite the FDA recommendations, it is important to understand that your weight may also play a part in your maximum daily dose of acetaminophen.

Research suggests that taking 4,000 mg for extended periods can seriously damage the liver, especially if you're under 150 pounds. As such, it is best to limit your intake to the lowest effective dose and to stay closer to 3,000 mg per day as your maximum dose.

If you need to take higher doses for chronic pain, check with your healthcare provider first. Acetaminophen is contraindicated for use in people with severe liver impairment or severe liver disease.

Keep in mind that you also risk liver damage if you drink too much alcohol while taking a medication that contains acetaminophen. The FDA warns you shouldn't have more than three or more drinks per day.

Current research suggests that the acetaminophen dose should be reduced to a maximum of 2,000 mg per day for heavy drinkers, people who are malnourished, and those who take chronic medications metabolized by the liver.

There are over 600 different drugs metabolized by the liver, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider if you take chronic medications of any sort if you plan to use acetaminophen. These include prescription, over-the-counter, nutritional, homeopathic, and recreational drugs.

Using Tylenol During Pregnancy

Providers have long told pregnant people that it’s safe to take Tylenol for minor aches and cold symptoms. However, research has now shown it might not be safe to take Tylenol while you’re pregnant. 

Experts now recommend that pregnant people avoid taking over-the-counter products that have acetaminophen in them because it might affect fetal development. 

In certain cases, it might be OK for a pregnant person to take Tylenol if they have been told to by their provider.

Talk to your provider about the risks and benefits of taking Tylenol during pregnancy in your case.

If a pregnant person does need to take Tylenol, experts suggest taking the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time possible.

Summary

Tylenol is the brand name of a drug called acetaminophen. The medication can be bought over-the-counter and is good for relieving pain and helping lower a fever.

The Tylenol brand makes many types of products for different symptoms. There are also special Tylenol types for infants and children.

While Tylenol is generally a safe and effective way to treat pain and occasional minor illnesses like a cold, you should talk to your provider before taking it often or for a long time. Tylenol does have risks, including damaging your liver and being unsafe to take when you're pregnant.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many different types of Tylenol are there?

    There are more than two dozen Tylenol products on the market. They differ in strength, formulation, intended use, and ages they are appropriate for.

  • What is the strongest type of Tylenol?

    The strongest forms of over-the-counter Tylenol are Tylenol 8-Hour Aches and Pain and 8-Hour Arthritis Pain. These products have 650 mg acetaminophen.

  • Is Tylenol better than generic acetaminophen?

    Generic medications work the same as the brand-name versions and usually have the same ingredients. You can get a generic product with acetaminophen that has the same amount in it as a Tylenol product.

  • What is a good substitute for Tylenol?

    You may be able to use aspirin, naproxen sodium, or ibuprofen, depending on your health history and symptoms. In some cases, one of these may even be better in your case. For example, Advil (ibuprofen) can reduce inflammation, while Tylenol cannot. Speak to your healthcare provider.

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9 Sources
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