Tylenol Overdose Nearly Took Son’s Life, Denver Mother AllegesJan 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
A Tylenol overdose nearly took the life of a Colorado child, and has left him with serious liver damage. As a result, Angela Long says her local hospital slowly poisoned her son with over-the-counter Tylenol. "They told me I could lose my child," said Long.
Last July she went to Denver Health Medical Center to see if her then nine-month-old son Ethan Martinez had an ear infection. According to Long, doctors told her to give the baby seven milliliters of Tylenol every six hours. Long claims that prescription is four times the maximum amount recommended for the drug and claims to have shown the doctor a bottle of Infants' Tylenol, which is more concentrated and specifically questioned the amount. Long said the doctor confirmed the amount was okay. "I didn't feel comfortable, so I had another doctor come in and he said it was fine," Long added.
Instead of using the syringe that came with the Infants' Tylenol bottle, Long says the doctor gave her a larger syringe. "When I came home, I broke it down and it was still too much for him," Long said. She gave her son five milliliters—not the seven the doctors recommended—of Infants' Tylenol every six hours for two days. The baby became violently ill, "He'd get up, throw up, and go back to sleep. So, when I took him back, they looked at me like I was crazy. Like, 'Oh, he's fine, he's just got a stomach bug,'" said Long. But Ethan remained ill, so Long took him to The Children's Hospital where they advised her that, “His liver was failing from it and that it was the highest level of Tylenol they had ever seen in a child," she said. "It could be potentially very serious," said Dr. Michele Chetham, an emergency pediatrician at Swedish Medical Center. Chetham says the wrong dose of Tylenol can be deadly. "The affects are initially very subtle and actually there's no symptoms initially, but over time, a chronic Tylenol overdose will definitely damage the liver," said Chetham.
Ethan spent eight days at Children's recovering from the overdose; Long says his liver is still not functioning completely and she is now suing the hospital, saying they could have killed her baby. "This is about it not happening to another mother and child, letting people know not to always trust the doctor," said Long.
According to the Mayo Clinic, acetaminophen—the medication in Tylenol—overdoses are serious and while acetaminophen has long been the standard remedy for fever and pain in children, even good things, in excess, can be harmful. Too much acetaminophen overloads the liver's ability to process the drug safely. An acetaminophen overdose can lead to life-threatening liver and kidney problems and overdoses can occur if a child dosed as an adult. Even the children's versions of acetaminophen come in many different formulations; dosage varies for each one: Infant drops are three times as concentrated as the elixir or syrup typically given to toddlers.
Be aware of early signs of overdose: Nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Left untreated, a serious acetaminophen overdose may be fatal within a few days.