‘Irregular’ feeling in your chest – side effect of paracetamol

Dr Chris on the link between paracetamol and heart disease

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PAINKILLERS can be a godsend for many of us. Whether you’re recovering from an injury or surgery, or just dealing with painful symptoms, they can help us carry on with life as best we can. However, like any medication they can have their downsides.

One of the most popular over-the-counter painkillers in the UK is paracetamol.

It’s mostly used for mild to moderate pain such as headaches and toothache.

But it can be used to bring down a high temperature caused by colds and flu.

According to NHS Inform side effects from paracetamol are “rare”.

But they can include low blood pressure.

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, means your blood pressure reading has dipped to or below 90/60 millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

If this happens you can experience heart palpitations – a “rapid or irregular” heartbeat.

NHS Inform recommends speaking to a doctor or pharmacist if you experience side effects from paracetamol.

Other side effects of the drug include:

  • An allergic reaction, which can cause a rash and swelling
  • Blood disorders, such as thrombocytopenia (low number of platelet cells) and leukopenia (low number of white blood cells)
  • Liver and kidney damage, if you take too much (overdose) – this can be fatal in severe cases.

Low blood pressure does not always produce symptoms.

“If you have low blood pressure and you do not have any symptoms, you do not require treatment,” NHS Inform explains.

“However, low blood pressure can sometimes mean that there is not enough blood flowing to your brain and other vital organs.”

As a result of this you could also experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting (a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness)
  • Light-headedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Nausea (feeling like you are going to be sick)
  • General weakness.

The recommended dosage of paracetamol for adults is one or two 500mg tablets up to four times in 24 hours.

You must leave at least four hours between doses.

Most people, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, can take paracetamol safely.

However, before taking paracetamol check with your doctor or pharmacist if you:

  • Have had an allergic reaction to paracetamol or any other medicines in the past
  • Have liver or kidney problems
  • Regularly drink more than the maximum recommended amount of alcohol (14 units a week)
  • Take medicine for epilepsy
  • Take medicine for tuberculosis (TB)
  • Take the blood-thinner warfarin and you may need to take paracetamol on a regular basis.

Taking too much paracetamol can be “very dangerous”.

NHS Inform adds: “If you’ve taken more than the recommended maximum dose, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department as soon as possible.”

“Some people feel sick, vomit or have abdominal (tummy) pain after taking too much paracetamol, but often there are no obvious symptoms at first. Go to A&E even if you’re feeling well.”

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