Paracetamol: How long does it take for the popular painkiller to work?

Paracetamol: How long does it take for the popular painkiller to work?

Many Brits rely on paracetamol to cure that pounding headache, or to reduce a frustrating fever – but how long does it take for the popular painkiller to kick in?

Most over-the-counter painkillers are effective treatments for common ailments, as it’s safe to take and side effects are rare.

According to the NHS, it can take up to an hour for a standard dose to work, while in some cases it can take as little as half an hour.

The effects of the painkiller can last for several hours, with a peak occurring around two hours from digestion.

The usual dose for adults is one or two 500mg tablets up to four times in 24 hours, and it is advised to leave 4 hours between doses.

Paracetamol can be taken with or without food, and it’s even safe to drink alongside a small amount of alcohol, explains the NHS.

However, previous research has suggested that what you drink when taking a painkiller could affect how fast it’s digested.

Once the medicine has entered your body, it is broken down by the stomach acids before it passes through the liver and then enters the bloodstream.

This process is called “gastric emptying” claim researchers, and occurs when something moves from the stomach to the small intestine to become waste – this normally takes 15 minutes without food.

Popular drinks, such as Coca-Cola and orange juice, can slow down the breakdown of painkillers, as shown in the results of a lab-controlled experiment published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal.

Experts recommend drinking a glass of water when taking medication to achieve its full effect.

The NHS website warns: “Overdosing on paracetamol can cause serious side effects. Do not be tempted to increase the dose or to take a double dose if your pain is very bad.”

It is important to read the guidelines on the packaging and to consult with your GP regarding any medications you are taking.