Health Warning: Paracetamol can cause asthma

A recent study has shown that there is a link between the use of paracetomol medicines, such as Calpol, in babies and the development of asthma at the age of 6-7 years. In the study 200,000 children were studied, and results showed that babies who had been treated with paracetomol were up to 46% more likely of developing asthma 5 years later.

Parents of children aged six and seven were asked questionnaires about symptoms of asthma, eczema and related allergic conditions in addition to details on paracetamol use for fever in the child’s first year of life and the past 12 months.

Many parents use paracetomol to help reduce fever, especially after immunisations and during teething. Until now, there were no known health risks of using paracetomol. Does paracetamol cause asthma?

Head of research, Professor Richard Beasley, from the University of Auckland said:

“We stress the findings do not constitute a reason to stop using paracetamol in childhood. However the findings do lend support to the current guidelines of the World Health Organization, which recommend that paracetamol should be reserved for children with a high fever (38.5C or above).” Professor Richard Beasley, University of Auckland

Professor Jeffrey Aronson, president of the British Pharmacological Society agrees that this research shows a real relationship between paracetomol and the development of childhood asthma;

“This confirms previous findings and underlines the importance of a current recommendation that paracetamol should not be used regularly in young children and should be reserved for times when they have a fever and are in obvious discomfort or pain.” Professor Jeffrey Aronson.

Asthma UK produced the following statement following these results:

“Despite a great deal of research being carried out, we still don’t know how important different lifestyle and genetic factors are in affecting the development of asthma. If we can establish the mechanisms behind how paracetamol might affect it, this could go some way towards helping to prevent the condition in the first place. At this stage however, the use of paracetamol should not be a concern for parents or carers who are worried about the development of asthma in their children.” Leanne Male, Asthma UK.

However, controlling a fever in a baby is more important than reducing possible risk of asthma later on, so it is still recommended that parents continue to use paracetomol on their children.

The research was reported in the Lancet, UK Medical Journal.

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