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How and when to take paracetamol for adults - Brand names: Disprol, Hedex, Medinol, Panadol

Paracetamol is available as tablets, capsules, syrup, powder and suppositories. Follow the instructions on the medicine packet.

Dosage and strength

Paracetamol comes as tablets, capsules, a syrup you swallow, a powder you add to water and a suppository. They come in different strengths:

  • tablet – 500mg or 1g
  • capsule – 500mg
  • syrup you swallow (oral solution) – 120mg, 250mg or 500mg in 5ml
  • powder you add to water and drink
  • suppository (medicine that you push gently into your bottom) – 60mg to 1g

If you're taking the syrup or powder, check the instructions for how much to take.

The usual dose for adults is either 500mg or 1g.

If you weigh less than 50kg (8 stone), check the maximum dose you can take with your doctor or pharmacist.


Adults can take two, 500mg tablets, 4 times in 24 hours. You must wait at least 4 hours between doses. Do not take more than 8 tablets in 24 hours.

How to take it

Tablets or capsules

Swallow paracetamol tablets or capsules with a drink of water. You can take it with or without food.


Paracetamol as syrup usually comes in a bottle with a cap that can be used to measure out the right dose. Do not use a kitchen spoon to take your medicine as this will not measure the right amount. Check the medicine packet for more information.


Check that the sachet has not torn and is not already open. If it is, throw it away.

Empty 1 sachet of powder into a drink of water and stir well to dissolve before drinking.


  1. Go to the toilet beforehand if you need to.
  2. Wash your hands before and after using the medicine. Also clean around your anus with mild soap and water, rinse and pat dry.
  3. Unwrap the suppository.
  4. Gently push the suppository into your anus with the pointed end first. It needs to go in about 3 centimetres (1 inch).
  5. Sit or lie still for about 15 minutes. The suppository will melt inside your anus. This is normal.

How long to take it for

If you're taking paracetamol for a short-lived pain like a headache, you may only need to take it for a day or two.

You may need to take paracetamol for longer if you have a long-term health problem that causes pain.

It's safe to take paracetamol regularly for many years, as long as you do not take more than the recommended dose.

If you forget to take it

If you take paracetamol regularly and miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, unless it's within 4 hours of your next dose. In this case, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time.

Do not take an extra dose to make up for a missed one.

If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.

If you take too much

Taking 1 or 2 extra tablets is unlikely to harm you. Do not take more than 8 tablets in 24 hours.

Taking too much paracetamol can be dangerous and you may need treatment. Too much paracetamol can cause liver damage.

Urgent advice: Contact 111 for advice now if:

  • you take too much paracetamol, even if you feel well

Go to or call 111

If you need to go to your nearest A&E, do not drive yourself. Get someone else to drive you, or call for an ambulance.

Take the paracetamol packet or leaflet inside it plus any remaining medicine with you.

Page last reviewed: 20 October 2022
Next review due: 20 October 2025