A is for Acetaminophen

I first discovered this difference years ago when visiting my then-fiancé in Orlando. I came down sick with a bad cold and headache.

To read my drama of trying to resolve my cold, read on.
Want to get to the point? Scroll down to the summary.


I sniffle my way down the Cold & Flu aisle in Walgreens (major US pharmacy chain –  after that I got the pop culture reference in Big Bang Theory S3: E3 ‘The Gothowitz Deviation’), looking out for a paracetamol-based product, as in Aus, paracetamol is an active ingredient for several pain-killer and cold and flu products – Panadol, also available in other countries, is a big one.

I find ibuprofen products like Advil but I prefer paracetamol mixed in with a decongestant. But all I see jumping out at me in the active ingredients of the myriad of brands are Acetaminophen, Acetaminophen + this, Acetaminophen + that…

Tylenol‘ by Mike Mozart is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is this strange, American drug? It has to be some kind of equivalent to paracetamol I figure, “Tylenol” which features Acetaminophen sounds a lot like “Panadol,” but to what extent? I have side-effects to some over-the-counter meds, so I’m wary of trying…

I connect to the free Wi-Fi and Viber msg my graduate-pharmacist-sister:

“WTH is Acetaminophen?”

She messages me back:

“Acetaminophen is Panadol. Lol.”

Ohhhh ok.

I stock up on acetaminophen-based products like Tylenol and Alka-Seltzer Plus that help me survive the rest of the visit (I was hoping Alka-Seltzer tastes like Lemsip – to me, it tastes awful! Theraflu, which I discovered on my next trip, is similar).

And I sign up for a free Walgreens rewards card, wondering why on earth my fiancé didn’t sign up years ago. Compared to the Aussie pharmacy chains at the time, their points-based system looked awesome.



  • Paracetamol = Acetaminophen
    • Panadol = Tylenol
  • Lemsip = somewhat similar taste = Theraflu
  • Ibuprofen = Ibuprofen.