Good times exploring the ingredients of various Tylenol products.

In my former post, Theophilus, I wrote about the questionable marketing of various Tylenol products.  The findings of my Tylenol study went relatively unnoticed.  I will allow that it was a rather verbose post, so let me summarize: Tylenol Flu (Extra Strength) and Tylenol Cold (Extra Strength) are a) the identical product and b) will do the same job as any one of the other available Tylenol products—they simply have a few more ingredients to cover more specific symptoms.

Dixie must have forgotten this post—or (more likely) she skimmed or simply ignored my first post on the subject—because she arrived home today and announced that she had bought a variety of Tylenol products to deal with our children’s various current illnesses.  Here they are:


From left to right:Children’s (Age 2-11) Tylenol Cough & Runny Nose; Children’s Tylenol Decongestant; Children’s Tylenol; Infants’ Tylenol (up to 35lbs).

I have arranged the boxes in this order for a reason, which is this: each box can do the same thing as all the boxes to its right.  So, for example, the box on the far left (Cough & Runny Nose) will do the same thing as every other box.  This is because the Cough & Runny Nose product has the exact same ingredients as the other boxes, plus some others.

I would have expected the Infants’ Tylenol to have a lower dosage of medicine (acetaminophen*) than the Children’s Tylenol.  In fact, per volume the Infants’ Tylenol has a significantly higher dosage (80mg/ml) of acetaminophen than the Children’s Tylenol (32mg/ml).  It’s just that the directions on the Infants’ box indicates a smaller amount of the product is to be given to the infant.

But the story doesn’t end there, folks.  Oh, no.  The directions for children that are Madeline and Luke’s age indicate they should be given 5ml of Tylenol, which gives them 160mg of acetaminophen—for children of Olivia’s weight it is suggested we consult our physician.  However, the directions on the Infants’ box say that an infant of Olivia’s weight should be given 2ml of the Tylenol, giving her 160mg of acetaminophen—the exact same amount as the heavier children would receive!

I don’t get it.  Am I missing something?

I will grant Toni his astute observation on the last post:

It’s all about the consumer, and that’s why you get the odd packaging. You know “Gimme sumtin for floo” – it’s their way of saying ‘this is good for flu’ even though it’s good for a cold too.

Fair enough.  But now you know, folks, for the next time you are buying cold relief products: you don’t need to buy $40 worth of “different” products when just one of them will cover all the bases.

I should work for Marketplace.  Or at least Street Cents**.

*I’m not sure if any of the infants’ products from Tylenol would include any of the medicinal ingredients for suppressing a cough or the antihistimine, so the comparisons that follow apply only for ordinary Chidren’s Tylenol and Infants’ Tylenol.
**Remember Jonathan Torrens?  He was awesome.  (He’s still alive and acting, but I haven’t seen him in anything recently)

4 thoughts on “Good times exploring the ingredients of various Tylenol products.

  1. Dixie

    Okay, I will go back and read the whole post… but for now, I’m just going to say that we need to clean the window of the backdoor. Look at those fingerprints!

  2. Linea

    The infants Tylenol is more concentrated because it is meant to be dispensed in an eye dropper. It needs to be measured more accurately. Older kids are maybe less likely to be given too much when they are given the dose measured in teaspoons – a teaspoon is not extremely accurate. And you are right, you would not want to give the cough suppressants, etc that come in the other combinations. But the huge variety of extra ingredients, even for adults, is mind boggling. Look at the active ingredients then buy the cheapest brand. And of course the pharmacist will give you very helpful advice if you ask. I think they like to be asked – at least that is the impression I get.

  3. daddydoctor

    As a dad and a doctor, I find this a very scary topic. I used to think that as long as my patient’s or I dosed the children’s cold & cough medications right, then everything would be OK. But when I researched this further, it turns out that children have died from “over dose” of ALL THE MAJOR CHILDRENS COLD AND COUGH MEDICINES even when given the correct dose (

    Here are a few interesting facts:

    1. Last October 2008, the drug companies promised the FDA that they would change all their labeling to say “do not use” for children under the age of 2, but I was just in the store last week, and a number of packages still had the old labeling!

    2. The FDA reviewed safety and effectiveness data this last fall and its expert panel said that “right now the current cold & cough medications should not be given to children under 6.” Here is a link to the FDA’s minutes, “”, see page 6. The FDA made a public advisory in January 2008 about never using it for children under 2, because the Drug companies are fighting them on the panels ruling to never use cold and cough medications on children 2 to 6. Since these drugs were previously allowed by the FDA, the FDA is forced to go though “due process” before they are willing to make an official public statement about never giving these medications to children 2 to 6.

    3. The number of infant deaths attributed to cold and cough medicines is dramatically underreported. New research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics demonstrated that there were at least “10 unexpected infant deaths that were associated with cold-medication” in 2006 alone in the state of Arizona. Extrapolated over the US and Canadian population, that would be over 500 deaths a year associated with cold-medication! (

    The thing that the drug companies don’t want anyone to know is that these medications never underwent the rigorous safety and effectiveness studies modern medications have to go though, they we grandfathered in the early 1970’s because at that time experts felt like they seemed to work, and they seemed safe enough.

    Interestingly, some researchers from Penn State have shown that Buckwheat honey is better then the OTC drugs for children’s cough. There is a web site that talks about this, and gives lots of research to help parents be better informed about how to help their kids. Check out


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