Asthma linked to paracetamol use

A New Zealand-led global study of more than 200,000 children has identified a link between the increasing use of paracetamol in children and the prevalence of asthma.
The study found that there was a 50 percent increased risk of asthma in six and seven-year-old children who had been given paracetamol for fever in their first year of life.
A dose-dependent association was also found in those who had used paracetamol in the previous 12 months.
Report author Richard Beasley, of the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, said the link was apparent in both scenarios in children tested in 31 countries.
An increased risk of rhinitis and eczema was also identified with the use of paracetamol.
Prof Beasley said there were a number of biases which could influence the survey, but that the findings were concerning enough to warrant further urgent research into the long-term effects of the frequent use of paracetamol.
Researchers said paracetamol remained the preferred drug to relieve pain and fever in children and had a better safety profile than aspirin and ibuprofen.
Suspicions of a possible link between paracetamol and asthma emerged in recent years when experts observed an increased use of the drug to a simultaneous rise in asthma prevalence worldwide.
One theory is that paracetamol reduces antioxidants in the body. Some experts think antioxidants, which stop unstable molecules known as free radicals from doing too much damage, can lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and other ailments.
“Paracetamol can reduce antioxidant levels and. . . that can give oxidative stress in the lungs and cause asthma,” Prof Beasley said.

– NZPA Friday, 19 September 2008

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