SMASA emphasises the importance of responsible paracetamol use

While the Self-Medication Association of South Africa (SMASA) recognises that paracetamol is an important part of every medicine cabinet, an alarming social media trend – #paracetamolchallenge – is impacting the responsible self-care and self-medication message that SMASA so strongly advocates.

“This ‘challenge’ encourages young adults to take immense quantities of paracetamol, with devastating effects”, says Allison Vienings, Executive Director of SMASA. “It is vital that those who may have been exposed to the dare understand just how easy it is to overdose on what is often considered a harmless painkiller.”  

What is paracetamol?

Paracetamol is an over-the-counter (OTC) drug commonly used to relieve pain and reduce fevers, and while it is often the first thing we reach for when we’re experiencing pain, overdosing can have serious implications, including potentially lethal heart and kidney problems[1] and in severe cases, even death[2].  

How much is too much?

The recommended adult dose is 2 x 500 mg tablets every 4–6 hours, and no more than four doses in any 24-hour period.[3] According to a study done by the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, staggered overdosing is just as dangerous as a single overdose[4], and with paracetamol present in a range of OTC cough and cold medication, it is vital that we check the labels of all medication we may be taking to ensure that we are not overdosing ourselves.

Symptoms of overdose

The symptoms of paracetamol poisoning include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes; loss of co-ordination; and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), which can cause trembling, sweating, and irritability[5].

Vienings says, “Over the past 15 years, there has been a worldwide increase in the use of OTC medication[6]. While self-medication helps consumers save money, it is vital that they practise it responsibly, by always reading the label carefully and seeking the advice of their pharmacist or another healthcare professional when medicating themselves and their children. If you ever think you have taken too much paracetamol or any other OTC medication, always seek immediate medical advice.” 

For more information on effective self-care, visit

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DISTRIBUTED BY:     Refresh Connect |

TEL:                             +27 (21) 887 4495

ON BEHALF OF:         Allison Vienings | SMASA | | + (82) 416 3916

Note to the Editor:


  •   The Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA) was formed in 1999 to represent the interests of the manufacturers of non-prescription medicines.
  •   It is dedicated to communicating the value of making healthy lifestyle choices and promoting responsible self-medication in South Africa to health professionals, health authorities and the public.
  •   SMASA’s key objectives are to play a role in the promotion and support of health legislative matters, and interact with government, provincial administration, local authorities, other associations and statutory councils, in a bid to reduce and ultimately reverse the burden of long-term healthcare costs on consumers, funders and government. |

Author: PR Officer

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