Health Secrets Newsletter) When children are in pain it’s only natural to want to makethem feel better. For years we turned to aspirin, a remedy that has been used for five thousand years. But several decades ago negative press about aspirin surfaced just as Tylenol was being introduced, and mothers and doctors got on the bandwagon for this drug that promised to be a safer alternative. Today that promise is in serious question as acetaminophen is proving to be much worse than the aspirin it replaced.
A just published review of data noted that the association between acetaminophen use and asthma prevalence and severity in children and adults is well established. (1) A variety of observations have suggested that acetaminophen use has contributed to the recent epidemic of asthma in children. The research specifically cites:
* the strength of the association
* the consistence of the association across age, geography and culture
* the dose-response relationship
* the correlation between increased acetaminophen use and the asthma epidemic
* the relationship between per capita sales of acetaminophen and asthma prevalence across countries
In a newly published data review from New Zealand, researchers examined evidence from six studies investigating the association between acetaminophen use in pregnancy and the development of childhood asthma. (2) Features of the studies included an association with acetaminophen use during all trimesters of pregnancy and an association with persistent asthma and severe asthma. The researchers concluded that acetaminophen use during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk, and called for public health warnings.
In another review of data, researchers in British Columbia-Vancouver examined 19 studies that included a total of 425,000 children and adults. They found that children who had been given acetaminophen were 60% more likely to display symptoms of asthma than children not given the drug. Adults who used acetaminophen during the past year were 75% more likely to display symptoms, suggesting a cumulative effect. A connection was shown between acetaminophen use and wheezing, eczema, runny nose and itchy eyes. (CHEST)
A similar study showed that teenagers who take acetaminophen are more than twice as likely to have asthma compared to teenagers who do not. More than 322,000 children between the ages of 13 and 14 from 50 countries participated. The researchers concluded that those who used acetaminophen at least once a month were a whopping 250% more likely to have asthma than those who did not use it. Those who used acetaminophen only about once a year had a 43% greater chance of having asthma than those who did not use it. (American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine).
Another study has linked acetaminophen use with asthma in adults. Researchers interviewed 121,700 women about their acetaminophen use in 1990, and examined medical records six years later to determine how many of those women had been diagnosed with asthma during the time period since their interview. Women who had used acetaminophen frequently were 63% more likely to have been diagnosed with asthma compared to those who did not use acetaminophen. (American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine)
A study published in 2005 found an association between acetaminophen and depletion of pulmonary glutathione and oxidative stress. Glutathione is one the antioxidants naturally produced by the body to fight free radicals and eliminate toxins. Depletion of glutathione would leave the lungs and respiratory system with little defense. (CHEST)
While there is no direct cause and effect established in these studies, the amount of evidence, including hundreds of studies showing a link between acetaminophen and asthma, is large enough and consistent enough to take these correlations seriously. Yet so far we have not. There are no warnings on packages of Tylenol and other painkillers, and no studies have been conducted that would cement a cause and effect relationship.
Acetaminophen is known as paracetamol in other parts of the world. In addition to being the active ingredient in Tylenol, it is found in many other pain remedies. It has not been shown to increase gastrointestinal bleeding as aspirin, ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have. This has led to its popularity as a pain reliever and fever reducer in children and adults. But instead of reaching for Tylenol in light of this evidence, it may be better to rely on your strengths as a parent, and use a rocking chair, soft words and a light stroking touch to reduce your child’s pain.
Read about the latest in natural asthma treatments here.