Paracetamol Sale Restrictions: How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy Paracetamol?

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Paracetamol is one of the most widely used pain relievers and fever reducers. Paracetamol is available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids, and suppositories. It’s an effective treatment for mild to moderate pain. Symptoms of migraines, muscle aches, stomach pain, toothaches, period cramps and arthritis can all be treated with paracetamol.

Like all medicines, there are sale restrictions when buying paracetamol. Prescriptions or one-off purchases must only be made by those of a legal age to buy paracetamol to ensure patients remain as safe as possible.

We’ve created this helpful guide on paracetamol restrictions so you can stay in the know regarding the legal age to buy paracetamol in the UK, the number of tablets available for purchase, and more.

Is a prescription required to purchase paracetamol?

Paracetamol is an over-the-counter medication, meaning you don’t need a prescription from a doctor or pharmacist to purchase it. Paracetamol is stocked in most supermarkets, convenience shops, pharmacies, and online via The Independent Pharmacy, where it can be bought without a prescription.

However, if you have chronic pain and you require a larger quantity of paracetamol (for example, a pack of 100), this will require a prescription from your doctor or pharmacist. To purchase a 100-pack of paracetamol caplets from The Independent Pharmacy, you’ll be required to complete a short online consultation first.

Can I purchase paracetamol over the counter?

As you don’t require a prescription for paracetamol, in most circumstances you can purchase it over the counter at your local pharmacy, convenience store or supermarket. Most stores and supermarkets sell paracetamol in packs of 16 tablets — and will usually allow you to buy no more than 2 packs at a time — while pharmacies may offer it in larger quantities under the discretion of a pharmacist.

You’ll only need a prescription or online consultation if you’re planning to purchase a large quantity of paracetamol; for example, if you have a chronic pain condition and require longer-term pain relief.

How old do you have to be to buy paracetamol?

There are no legal age restrictions for buying medicines. However, most retail outlets have their own policies that restrict the sale of medicines to children to protect their safety. In our experience, most shops and pharmacies will sell paracetamol to those aged 16 years and older.

The ‘Think 25’ policy requires colleagues to check the age of anyone buying restricted products (using a photo ID) who they believe to be under 25. If the shop assistant or pharmacist believes you may be under 25, you may be asked to provide a photo ID (such as a passport or driving licence) to prove your age.

Can you buy paracetamol at 16 years old?

Most UK shops and pharmacies will let you purchase paracetamol over the counter if you’re aged 16 or older, although you may have to produce a photo ID to confirm your age.

If you’re under 16 and require paracetamol for pain relief, a parent or legal guardian will need to purchase it for you. In this case, it’s best to purchase paracetamol from a registered pharmacy so the pharmacist can assess whether paracetamol is a safe and suitable treatment.

Can you take paracetamol under the age of 16?

Although most shops and pharmacists limit paracetamol purchases to people aged 16 and above, 500mg paracetamol tablets can be taken by children aged 10 years and older under the supervision of an adult. Younger children (aged 6 years and over) can take paracetamol, but they should be given a lower dose.

The dosage limit for children can vary:


Age

Dosage

Frequency

6 to 8 years

250mg

Max 4 times in 24 hours

8 to 10 years

375mg

Max 4 times in 24 hours

10 to 12 years

500mg

Max 4 times in 24 hours

12 to 16 years

750mg

Max 4 times in 24 hours

Paracetamol can be taken with or without food. The usual dose is one or two tablets up to 4 times in 24 hours, with at least a 4 hour gap between doses. Taking any more than the recommended dose over a 24-hour period can cause serious effects for adults and children. If you have exceeded the recommended dose, you should seek immediate medical attention.

How many paracetamol tablets can you buy?

Paracetamol is generally sold in packs of 16 tablets, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advises that no more than two packs should be purchased in one transaction. However, some pharmacies sell paracetamol in packs of 32, while a pack of 100 paracetamol tablets may be prescribed for chronic pain at the pharmacist’s discretion.

Need some paracetamol for relief from mild to moderate pain, including headaches, back pain, or dental pain? Order yours today from The Independent Pharmacy and you’ll receive it as quickly as the next working day. Not sure if paracetamol is right for you? Visit our pain treatments page for more information on pain relief and to explore alternatives to paracetamol.

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