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10th Feb 2016

Babies Given Paracetamol Almost A THIRD More Likely To Develop Asthma

Trine Jensen-Burke

Paracetamol is the most commonly used painkiller and fever relief for babies, and is the main component in popular medicines like Calpol and Disprol, which states that they are safe to administer to babies as young as two months old.

But now new research has shed a light on the long-term effects of paracetamol on infants and young babies, revealing how babies who are given paracetamol are nearly a third more likely to develop asthma. As well as this, taking paracetamol during pregnancy also increases the chance of the unborn child later becoming asthmatic, according to a Bristol University study.

The Bristol team, as well as scientists from Oslo University in Norway, examined data from 114,500 pregnancies, tracking the children until the age of seven. What they found was that taking paracetamol by mothers during pregnancy – and by babies in infanthood – was linked to the development of asthma by the age of three.

Using data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, researchers compared associations between several conditions during pregnancy (with and without the use of paracetamol) and asthma developing in the 114,500 children in the study.

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, saw the scientist test their theory against the idea that the asthma was caused by the medical complaint for which the person was taking paracetamol. However, even after that idea had been taken into account, a strong link to paracetamol remained.

The scientists found that children given paracetamol during infancy were a whopping 29 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with asthma by the age of three, with a similar rate at age seven. Also frightening: Mothers who had taken paracetamol during pregnancy had a 13 per cent increased chance of their baby developing asthma by the age of three, a rate that doubled to 27 per cent by the age of seven.

Worried about overuse

Researcher Dr Maria Magnus, of Bristol University, whose team suspect that paracetamol induces ‘oxidative stress’, in which unstable molecules known as free radicals trigger an allergic response, think the findings are reason for worry. “Uncovering potential adverse effects is of public health importance, as paracetamol is the most commonly used painkiller among pregnant women and infants.”

This problem gets more serious when you take into account that many medical professionals are warning that parents nowadays are far too quick to administer fever medications, with the American Academy of Pediatrics stating “It should be emphasized that fever is not an illness but is, in fact, a physiological mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection.” In short, they are trying to help parents understand that a fever in itself is not known to endanger a generally healthy child.

The team of scientist in Bristol and Oslo also performed the same test for the use of ibuprofen, the main component in for instance Nurofen, which is also commonly used as a fever and pain medication very young children and infants, finding that mothers who had taken ibuprofen while pregnant were more likely to have a child with asthma at the age of three – but this link was less certain, and had disappeared by the age of seven.

How quick are YOU to dish our pain- or fever relief when your little ones are a little under the weather? Do you adhere to the “treat the child, not the fever” idea, or give a spoon whenever your child has even the slightest hint of a fever?  Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @Herfamilydotie