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Is Acetaminophen Causing Asthma?

Is Acetaminophen Causing Asthma?

What possibly could be the cause of the dramatic worldwide increase in childhood asthma over the past 30 years? Researchers have been trying to puzzle out an answer to this question, with ideas running the gamut from improved hygiene to immunizations. Over the last ten years, however, a new idea has emerged according to a recent article, Studies Suggest an Acetaminophen-Asthma Link, in The New York Times.

Some researchers have noted that the asthma epidemic grew rapidly in the 1980s at the same time that aspirin was linked to Reye’s syndrome in children. Doctors stopped prescribing aspirin to children with fevers, opting instead for acetaminophen. And many parents began reaching for the acetaminophen at the first sign of a fever. In a paper published in The Annals of Allergy and Asthma Immunology in 1998, Dr. Arthur Varner, then a fellow in the immunology training program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, proposed that the change to acetaminophen might have fueled the increase in asthma.

In the meantime, more than 20 studies have produced results in support of his theory, notes The Times, including a large analysis of data on more than 200,000 children that found an increased risk of asthma among children who had taken acetaminophen. Many of these studies have had pretty convincing results. For example, a study published in The Lancet in 2008 looked at data gathered on more than 205,000 children from 31 countries as part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (the Isaac study). This study found that children who had taken acetaminophen during their first six months of life had a 50 percent greater risk of developing asthma symptoms, as opposed to children who had not taken the drug. The risk rose with increasing use; children who had taken acetaminophen at least once a month had a three-times greater risk of asthma symptoms.

“I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that acetaminophen makes asthma worse, but I can say that if I had a child with asthma, I would give him or her ibuprofen for the time being,” said Dr. John T. McBride of Children’s Hospital, “I think the burden of proof is now to show that it’s safe.”

Related:

Winter, Kids & Asthma
Could You Have Adult-Onset Asthma?

 

Read more: Asthma, Children, Health, Healthy Aging, Pregnancy

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

53 comments

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7:29AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

ty

9:32AM PST on Jan 5, 2013

Thanks for the info.

9:28AM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

worth pondering and investigating

11:24PM PDT on May 28, 2012

Hmmm....so hard to know what's best approach...more research needs to happen in natural remedies in my opinion....or make Chinese medicine approaches more affordable for those of us Western types that Know it works from experience!

2:34PM PDT on May 28, 2012

Oh, PLEASE, Tylenol causes liver damage, not ASTHMA. 160,000 women and children a year die of SECOND HAND SMOKE from CIGARETTES. Asthma is TROUBLE BREATHING, SMOKE CAUSES TROUBLE BREATHING. COULD THERE BE A CONNECTION? Duuuhhh.

2:34PM PDT on May 28, 2012

Oh, PLEASE, Tylenol causes liver damage, not ASTHMA. 160,000 women and children a year die of SECOND HAND SMOKE from CIGARETTES. Asthma is TROUBLE BREATHING, SMOKE CAUSES TROUBLE BREATHING. COULD THERE BE A CONNECTION? Duuuhhh.

2:34PM PDT on May 28, 2012

Oh, PLEASE, Tylenol causes liver damage, not ASTHMA. 160,000 women and children a year die of SECOND HAND SMOKE from CIGARETTES. Asthma is TROUBLE BREATHING, SMOKE CAUSES TROUBLE BREATHING. COULD THERE BE A CONNECTION? Duuuhhh.

9:36PM PST on Jan 2, 2012

Inconclusive is what I got from this article.

1:30AM PST on Jan 2, 2012

I guess I would need a stronger case study. I'm not sure if ibuprofen lowers high fevers as well. To prevent seizures, acetaminophen would be very helpful. Then there are other triggers, such as do the parents smoke? Do they live in a large city like Tokyo? Are there coal or other big plants such as the electric company that utilizes a LOT of coal that operates near by? All of these things can contribute greatly, and yet they don't talk about how these situations affect whether or not the children used acetaminophen more or less than others.

11:24PM PST on Dec 30, 2011

humm

how about all the pollution we live around? off gassing from rugs, furniture, paint, plastics, house cleaners, over processed foods, fumes from coal,gas,tires on black top......there is so much you can chose from to cause health problems, that one can't be doing it all.

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