A large study covering children in 31 countries has found that infants who have been given the common pain reliever paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, may have a higher risk of developing asthma and eczema by the time they are 6 or 7.
The findings were published in the journal Lancet together with two other studies, which found that runny noses and wheezing early on in life may be strong predictors of asthma.
In the first study, researchers pored through data provided by parents of more than 205,000 children and found acetaminophen use in the first year of life was associated with a 46 percent higher risk of asthma by the time the children were 6 or 7 compared to those never exposed to the drug.
In North America, acetaminophen is widely sold under the brand Tylenol and is used to relieve fever, minor aches and pain. It is used in a liquid suspension for children.
Medium use of acetaminophen in the past 12 months increased asthma risk by 61 percent, while high dosages of once a month or more in the past year raised the risk by over three times.
Medium use was defined as once per year or more, but less than once a month.
One theory about the possible link between acetaminophen and asthma is that acetaminophen reduces antioxidants in the body. Some experts think antioxidants, which stop unstable molecules known as free radicals from doing too much damage, can lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and other ailments.
Even thought these study results are worrying, researchers stressed acetaminophen should remain the preferred drug to relieve pain and fever in children because its alternative, aspirin, was linked to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious complication in children.
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