Go-To Childhood Medicine May Increase Asthma Risk

inhalerMy 2-year-old daughter gets sick a lot. Since starting preschool last year, it seems we haven't gone more than a couple weeks without her coming down with a new bug when school is in session. And when she gets sick, she gets sicker than most children, and the cough and fever move into her lungs. So it's no surprise that after getting sick twice within the first month of school this year, she was diagnosed with asthma. What is surprising is that one of the things we are told to give her every time she gets sick is something that just may have caused the asthma in the first place -- acetaminophen.

A new report published in the December issue of Pediatrics found a strong link between the two. Whether it's because acetaminophen causes asthma or exacerbates it, or because people with asthma take more acetaminophen isn't known, but at least one doctor is urging for caution when using the popular drug.


Dr. John McBride, vice chair of the department of pediatrics and director of the Robert T. Stone Respiratory Center at Akron Children's Hospital, told USA Today:

I think we owe it to our patients and their parents to make it clear that maybe acetaminophen is bad. And, if there are alternatives, people might want to use those alternatives until they know acetaminophen is safe.

Wow, that kind of makes me dread the next sniffle that's surely right around the corner, and the numbers he found make me want to heed his advice. For example, 6- to 7-year-olds who took acetaminophen more than once a year (but less than once a month) had a 61 percent greater risk of asthma. That's a lot of risk for a little Tylenol. There were various fluctuations among age groups, but most showed some link, even in adults.

It's interesting information to have, even if it's not yet proven, and it does to some extent reinforce my strong instinct to avoid as many medications as possible -- no matter how safe we're told they are. High fevers obviously need to be treated with something (ibuprofen is the alternative), but in general I'm not one to race to the medicine cabinet for every little ache and pain. My husband and I disagree over this approach, but it's studies like these that I file away for future reference when I'm trying to get him to see my way of thinking: that we should just let our bodies work out their ailments as best they can.

Do you give your children acetaminophen? Do they have asthma? What do you think of the theory that the two may be linked?

Image via Dottie Mae/Flickr

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