Acetaminophen possibly linked to asthma and skin diseases such as eczema

Common fever medicine’s surprising risk

I’d be willing to bet there’s a bottle of Tylenol in 90% (or more) of the medicine cabinets in America. In fact, acetaminophen (the generic name for Tylenol) is one of the most commonly used medications worldwide. Because it’s so common, people think it’s safe. But I’ve been warning my patients against it for years.

The fact is, acetaminophen is downright disastrous for your liver. And some new research points to yet another risk that might surprise you…

Studies are showing that acetaminophen might be associated with a higher risk for asthma among both children and adults.

In one 2010 study involving 322,959 adolescents in 50 countries, kids who had recently been given acetaminophen were 1.5 times more likely to have asthma. Recent acetaminophen use was also associated with a greater risk of skin diseases such as eczema.

Research in younger children found that treatment with acetaminophen during the first year of life increased the risk for asthma symptoms by an astonishing 46%. Even prenatal use of acetaminophen increased the risk for asthma and wheezing among offspring.

And one of the most recent studies, published in the December 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics, concluded that the link is so strong that “until future studies document the safety of this drug, children with asthma or at risk for asthma should avoid the use of acetaminophen.”

The primary reason most parents give their kids acetaminophen is to bring down a fever. However, I’ve always been a big believer in “sweating it out.” A fever is the body’s way of trying to kill off any bugs that may have snuck in. Fevers are also good for fighting cancer cell development.

I usually tell parents to use cold, damp washcloths or something similar to bring their child’s body temperature down. If the fever gets too high (103 is my usual cut–off) or the child is miserable then I think it’s okay to use a medication. But given all of the evidence against it, acetaminophen is not the best choice. If you must use something, opt for  ibuprofen. But, please–only use it if it’s absolutely necessary.

If we let their bodies learn how to do their jobs effectively, maybe our little ones will grow up to be healthier for it.

“Acetaminophen use and risk of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in adolescents: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase Three.” Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011; 183(2): 171-178

“Association between paracetamol use in infancy and childhood, and risk of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children aged 6—7 years: analysis from Phase Three of the ISAAC programme,” The Lancet 2008; 372(9,643): 1,039–1,048

“The association of acetaminophen and asthma prevalence and severity.” Pediatrics2011; 128(6): 1,181-1,185