Asthma Risk for Kids Tied to Acetaminophen During Pregnancy: Study

Acetaminophen may increase the risk of asthma in children when the popular painkiller is used during pregnancy, according to a new study by New Zealand researchers. 

The findings were published in the medical journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy, highlighting a potential risk associated with use of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol and other other painkillers, by pregnant women.

Although the study does not make a causal link between acetaminophen and asthma, children born to women who used the drug during pregnancy were found to be more likely to develop signs of asthma.

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Researchers performed an analysis of six different studies conducted worldwide. Overall, the risk of a child developing asthma or breathing problems was 21% higher when the mother took acetaminophen during pregnancy, but many of the findings from the studies raised more questions than answers. In some studies, women who took acetaminophen early in pregnancy actually showed a reduced risk of having a child in asthma while in another study the increased risk of asthma only showed in children whose mother did not have asthma.

Researchers said that the findings of the study should raise concern, but not alarm, and said women should avoid regular use during pregnancy.

Earlier this year, the FDA announced that it was limiting the amount of acetaminophen in combination painkillers to ensure that the dosage does not exceed 325 mg in each pill. The limitations came after increased concern over acetaminophen liver damage.

Acetaminophen is a pain killer and anti-inflammatory medication found in a number of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. It is also widely marketed for use among infants and children for the treatment of fever, aches and pain.

Asthma is a chronic condition where the airways could occasionally constrict and become inflamed, causing breathing problems. This can cause symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing, which can be life-threatening in severe cases.

In 2009, Canadian researchers also linked acetaminophen to increased asthma risk for children. Their analysis suggested that children who were given acetaminophen before they were one year old had a 47% increased chance of developing asthma, pregnant women who used acetaminophen were 28% more likely to have a child with asthma, and children who took acetaminophen were 60% more likely than other children to be diagnosed with asthma within the year following the medication’s use.

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