Painkiller side effects: Colour change to spot on your lips and fingernails that’s serious

This Morning: Dr Helen gives advice on mixing painkillers

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Codeine is widely accessible in the UK and is one of the most commonly prescribed opioids and can be purchased over the counter (OTC) in licensed pharmacies without a medical prescription. As with most things, too much of a good thing can pose grave health risks. Noticing a certain colour on your lips and fingernails could mean an overdose.

Codeine is a drug in some prescription pain medicines. It is in the class of drugs known as opioids, which refers to any synthetic, semisynthetic, or natural drug that has morphine-like properties.

Codeine overdose occurs when someone takes more than the normal or recommended amount of this medicine.

This can be by accident or on purpose.

Signs of a codeine overdose include:

  • Bluish fingernails and lips
  • Breathing problems, such as slow and laboured breathing, shallow breathing, no breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness, fatigue, weakness
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Itching.

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Why do fingernails and lips turn blue?

Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues, said Mount Sinai.

The health site added: “Most of the time, nearly all red blood cells in the arteries carry a full supply of oxygen.

“These blood cells are bright red and the skin is pinkish or red.

“Blood that has lost its oxygen is dark bluish-red.

“People whose blood is low in oxygen tend to have a bluish colour to their skin. This condition is called cyanosis.”

According to the NHS, a usual dose of codeine is 15mg to 60mg.

The usual dose for treating pain: adults usually take one or two 30mg tablets every four hours, up to a maximum of eight tablets (240mg) in 24 hours.

It’s recommended for children (aged 12 to 17 years) to take one or two 30mg tablets (or one or two 5ml spoonfuls of liquid) every six hours.

Codeine should be used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time.

The dose may be taken, up to four times a day at intervals of not less than six hours.

Maximum daily dose of codeine should not exceed 240mg.

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