Back to Medicines A to Z. Fentanyl is a strong opioid painkiller. It's used to treat severe pain, for example during or after an operation or a serious injury, or pain from cancer. It is also used for other types of pain that you've had for a long time when weaker painkillers have stopped working. Fentanyl patches are used for long-lasting pain.
Your doctor may also prescribe other types of fentanyl if you need extra pain relief while your regular painkiller wears off. Some patches can be used in children from the age of 2 years and over. However, young children and older people are more likely to get side effects. Fentanyl patches are usually only used if you've already been taking other strong opioid painkillers. Your doctor will work out how much fentanyl to give you depending on what dose of other opioids you have been taking.
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This is to reduce the risk of an overdose. Fentanyl is not suitable for some people. Tell your doctor before starting this medicine if you:. Follow your doctor's instructions about how to use this medicine. This is particularly important because fentanyl can be addictive. Doses vary from person to person.
Everything you need to know about fentanyl
Your dose will depend on how bad your pain is, how you've responded to other painkillers and if you get any side effects from fentanyl. Fentanyl tablets, lozenges, nasal spray and injections are fast-acting. They're used for pain that is expected to last for a short time.
Fentanyl patches are slow-release. This means fentanyl is gradually released through the skin into your body. Some patches keep working after they've been removed as they "store" fentanyl under the skin. Fentanyl patches take longer to start working but last longer.
They're used for when pain lasts for a long time. Sometimes your doctor may prescribe a fentanyl patch with a fast-acting painkiller. This is to manage sudden flare-ups of pain that "break through" the relief the patches give. Before taking or using fentanyl, you will usually start on a low dose of another type of opioid, such as morphine.
This will be increased what until your pain is well controlled. Once your pain is under control, your doctor may swap you to fentanyl patches. This will avoid you having to take tablets or capsules each day. If your doctor agrees that you can stop taking fentanyl, they will reduce the strength of your patch gradually. This is especially important if you've been taking it for a long time to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms.
Your doctor may switch you to morphine tablets or liquid or another similar painkiller so that they can reduce the dose of fentanyl even more slowly. Do not expose your patch to strong heat or sunlight. This can increase the amount of fentanyl that gets absorbed into your skin and can increase the risk of side effects or overdose.
This includes long hot baths, saunas, electric blankets, hot water bottles, heat p and sunbathing. You can have showers and go swimming. Check the patch is still on properly afterwards and dry the area around the patch carefully. If your patch is missing, make sure it has not stuck to another person by mistake. It's important to find it and put it back in the packet until you can return it to your pharmacist.
If a patch falls off before the usual 3 days are up, put another patch on a different part of your body and put the fentanyl patch back in the packet it came in. When you change your patch, try to do it at the same time of day. Think of ways to help you remember when to change it. You could:. Used patches still contain fentanyl that can be dangerous to someone else. It's important to stick the sticky sides back together after you have taken them off and keep them safe until you can take them back to your pharmacist.
This will vary depending on which type of fentanyl you're using.
Most types of fentanyl are only taken when you need them and so you are unlikely to forget. Always remove the old patch before applying a new one. Never use more than 1 patch at a time, unless your doctor tells you to. It's important not to take more than your prescribed dose, even if you think it's not enough to relieve your pain. Speak to your doctor first, if you think you need a different dose.
Too much fentanyl can be dangerous. However, the amount that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person.
If you've taken too much you may feel very sleepy, sick or dizzy. You may also find it difficult to breathe. In serious cases you can become unconscious and may need emergency treatment in hospital. Make sure the patch does not get stuck to someone else's skin, especially 's, by accident — for example if it falls off in bed or if the patch falls on the floor. It's safe to take fentanyl with paracetamolibuprofen or aspirin.
Do not take any painkillers with codeine including co-codamolibuprofen and codeine Nurofen Plus and Solpadeine when using fentanyl — you will be more likely to get side effects. Like all medicines, fentanyl can cause side effects in some people but many people have no side effects or only minor ones.
In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction anaphylaxis to fentanyl. These are not all the side effects of fentanyl. For the full list, see the leaflet inside you medicines packet. In early pregnancy, it's been linked to some problems for your baby.
If you take fentanyl at the end of pregnancy there's a risk that your baby may get withdrawal symptoms or be born addicted to fentanyl. However, it's important to treat pain in pregnancy. For some pregnant women with severe pain, fentanyl might be the best option. Your doctor is the best person to help you decide what's right for you and your baby.
For more information about how fentanyl can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read this leaflet about fentanyl on the Bumps website. Small amounts of fentanyl pass into breast milk and can cause breathing problems for your baby. Speak to your doctor as they may want to recommend a what painkiller. Some medicines and fentanyl interfere with each other and increase the chance that you will have side effects. They're not tested in the same way as pharmacy and prescription medicines.
They're generally not tested for the effect they have on other medicines. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, fentanyl herbal medicines, vitamins or supplements. It works in the central nervous system and the brain to block pain als to the rest of the body.
It also reduces the anxiety and stress caused by pain. A fentanyl injection into a vein gives the quickest pain relief. It works almost straight away and is usually only given in hospital.
Fast-acting fentanyl tablets, lozenges and nasal sprays take around 15 to 30 minutes to work but they wear off after 4 to 6 hours. Fentanyl patches can take up to a day or two to start working but they will last longer. Patches are usually given after fentanyl tablets.