A young mother has died of liver failure after taking a few extra tablets of paracetamol a day to help her deal with post operative pain.
Desiree Philips, 20, was prescribed antibiotics and over-the-counter paracetamol following a routine operation to remove several benign breast lumps.
But nine days after the operation the young mother from LLanelli, South Wales, was admitted to hospital with liver failure, the Daily Mail reported. Although Ms Phillips underwent a liver transplant, she died a week later at Birmingham Queen Elizabeth hospital.
Her father, Des Phillips, said he believed his daughter had only taken "a few extra tablets" of paracetamol a day.
The sad news highlights the hidden danger of repeatedly taking slightly too much paracetamol, known as a staggered overdose.
Only last month, a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology warned that staggered overdoses can occur when people take a little more paracetamol than they should, usually to relieve a range of common causes of pain such as headache, toothache, abdominal or muscular pain.
A staggered dose of paracetamol is also more difficult for hospital staff to diagnose, compared with someone who has tried to take their own life with a massive overdose of paracetamol, the same study found.
People who have deliberately taken an overdose of the painkiller have high levels of the drug in their blood which can be detected with a simple blood test, but this is not the case with a staggered overdose. Under these circumstances someone can have low levels of paracetamol in their blood but be at a high risk of liver failure and death.
Study leader Dr Kenneth Simpson, of the University of Edinburgh, said: "They haven't taken the sort of single-moment, one-off massive overdoses taken by people who try to commit suicide, but over time the damage builds up, and the effect can be fatal.
"On admission, these staggered overdose patients were more likely to have liver and brain problems, require kidney dialysis or help with breathing and were at a greater risk of dying than people who had taken single overdoses."
According to the NHS, adults should never exceed the recommended dose for paracetamol which is two (500mg) tablets of paracetamol, every four to six hours, up to four times a day. Paracetamol is also sold in combination with other painkilling drugs and in cold and flu medications.
Always consult with your pharmacist or doctor if you are considering using a number of these products, to avoid exceeding the daily recommended dose.
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.