New research has linked the use of acetaminophen to development of asthma and eczema. In fact, this research suggests even monthly use of the drug in adolescents may more than double risk of asthma in adolescents compared to those who used none at all, according to the World Asthma Foundation.
The study was based on 13- and 14 year old adolescent children. They found that medium users of the drug had a 43% higher risk of asthma and high users had 2.5 times the risk of non-users. In addition, the risk of allergic nasal congestion was 38% higher for medium users and 2 times as great for high users.
Eczema and asthma often co-exist. It has been shown that eczema may even be an early indicator of asthma. See eczema causes asthma for more information. So, it is not surprising that researchers found a link to eczema and acetaminophen as well. For eczema, the relative risks were 31 percent higher for medium users and 99 percent for high users.
Some speculate that acetaminophen may have a systemic inflammatory effect. It may suppress the immune response and prolong the symptomatic illness from rhinovirus infections, which are a common cause of severe asthma exacerbations in childhood.
Acetaminophen vs. Ibuprofin
In an earlier study from the United States, 13 and 14-year-old children with asthma were randomized to take either acetaminophen or ibuprofen after a febrile illness. For those whose illness was respiratory, there was an increased risk of a subsequent outpatient visit for asthma.
Acetaminophen is a fever and mild pain reducing drug (ex. Tylenol). Many people feel it is a mild drug, that won’t upset the stomach, and a good alternative to aspirin. Ibuprofin (ex. Motrin, Advil) is a common alternative to acetaminophen that contains aspirin. It reduces fever, pain, and inflammation. In addition to the reduction of inflammation, ibuprofen has shown to have better fever reduction properties than acetaminophen.
There are side effects to every drug. Ibuprofen is not necessarily the answer here. It has it’s own list of concerns. However, acetaminophen has been proven not to be as mild as once thought. You may want to reconsider taking acetaminophen during an illness or for a headache, if you have asthma. Contact your doctor for alternative medications.
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