Acetaminophen in Pregnancy Linked To Asthma

Expectant mothers taking <"">acetaminophen, the popular painkiller commonly known as Tylenol, could be increasing their developing baby’s asthma risks. The study calls for additional research into the potential for a cause and effect link between <"">Tylenol used during pregnancy and asthma, said WebMD.

“The message would be that this study raises some concern, and that it really reinforces the general principle to avoid unnecessary medication during pregnancy,” said study researcher, Richard Beasley, MD, professor of medicine at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, quoted WebMD. “This [report] does not change the recommendation,” he added.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, the University of Otago Wellington, New Zealand, and the University of Southampton and was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Clinical and Experimental Epidemiology, said NHS Choice.

Acetaminophen would ”remain as the preferred analgesic” to bring down fever in a pregnant woman, said Beasley, MD, “But we would caution against the regular use, particularly regular unnecessary use, during pregnancy,” quoted WebMD.

Prior studies point to a link between acetaminophen and increased asthma risks in developing children; this study looked at results from six prior studies, said WebMD. This was a systematic review, which aimed to investigate whether acetaminophen use in pregnancy is linked to asthma in young life. Studies were assessed for details, quality, and methods with statistical processes utilized and variations in study types factored in, said NHS Choice. The six studies chosen met all of the team’s criteria.

The researchers concluded that “the use of” acetaminophen “during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of childhood asthma,” and called for additional research “to determine the impact of” acetaminophen “during pregnancy on the risk of wheezing in offspring so that appropriate public health recommendations can be made,” quoted NHS Choice.

The team found that acetaminophen used by pregnant mothers at any point during their pregnancy was associated with a 21 percent increased asthma risk in their children, noted WebMD. Meanwhile, some experts feel that the increase in use of the painkiller globally could be correlated to the increase in asthma with about 24.6 million people suffering from asthma in the U.S., alone, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The studies looked at children from 2 ½ to 7 years of age and parents were asked if their children wheezed in the past year, “We would say wheezing is a marker for asthma,” Beasley told WebMD.

While the researchers were unable to explain links between acetaminophen and asthma, one possible explanation could be that the drug’s breakdown increases inflammation that could affect the airway, which could increase asthma risks, said WebMD. The emerging report ”does strengthen the argument” making the link, said Victoria Persky, MD, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, wrote WebMD.

Dr. Persky, who conducted her own research published in 2008 found that babies born to women taking the medication in mid to later pregnancy experienced increased risks for wheezing during the first year of life. No links were found when the drug was taken in early pregnancy, said WebMD. Rebecca Piltch, MD, a San Francisco allergist and expert in the field said that while evidence is early, “It is beginning to look like there may be a link at least in some circumstances,” reported WebMD.

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