Acetaminophen is a medication used to reduce fever and pain in babies, children, and adults. It comes in liquid, chewable tablets, pills, and suppository forms.
The medication is dosed according to your baby’s weight, so a baby who weighs 10 pounds will require a different amount than a baby who weighs 20 pounds. When giving acetaminophen, always follow the dosage directions on the medication or your doctor’s advice.
Acetaminophen is used to control fever or pain.
- Fever: Any temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher. Among babies over 3 months of age, moderate fevers are a signal that something else is making them ill, like an infection or cold. In babies under 3 months of age, acetaminophen should only be used under the advice of a doctor and any fever should trigger a call to your doctor.
- Pain: Babies in pain may squirm, cry, or fuss. Pain may or may not be associated with a fever. For example, teething babies are often uncomfortable without being feverish. Acetaminophen can help with the normal pain caused by teething. It can be especially useful at bedtime when a teething baby is trying to fall asleep.
How to dose and administer acetaminophen
When giving liquid acetaminophen, it is important to use the measuring syringe that comes with the medicine. Never use a household spoon to measure medication. As infants grow, the dose increases so it is important to ask your doctor at each visit what the appropriate amount of medication should be.
Suppositories are acetaminophen that is inserted into the baby’s anus. Acetaminophen suppositories are useful for babies who are unable to take medication by mouth, either because of vomiting or because they spit it out. Suppositories are available in several strengths (80mg, 120mg, 325mg, and 650mg). The recommended strength depends on your baby’s age and weight. In general, suppositories are not recommended for use in babies under 6 months of age without a doctor’s recommendation. They are also not appropriate for babies until they are over 12 pounds. A doctor or pharmacist can help determine what strength is best. They are gently inserted just past the anal sphincter muscle into the rectum.
Acetaminophen can be given every four hours as needed to lower fever or decrease pain. It should not be given more than 5 times a day.
When used correctly, acetaminophen is a safe medication in most babies. It is important to remember that acetaminophen helps with the symptoms of an illness or problem but does not fix the problem itself. Discussing the fever with a doctor is still important, especially in babies under three months of age, babies with other medical problems, or babies who have not been vaccinated.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, May 2020
- Acetaminophen is safe to use in babies and infants.
- It is dosed by weight, not age.
- Acetaminophen is useful to reduce fevers and relieve pain and discomfort.
- It is available in various forms, including liquid and suppositories.