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Originally published March 9 2010

Common Painkiller Acetaminophen Linked to Asthma

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The common painkiller acetaminophen may increase the risk of asthma and other allergies in both children and adults, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia-Vancouver and published in the journal CHEST.

Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, is the active ingredient in the painkillers Tylenol, Anacin, Panadol, and others. Because it does not increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding the way aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do, it has become the favored analgesic and fever-reducer used in young children.

Researchers reviewed 19 prior studies on a total of 425,000 children and adults. They found that children who had been treated with the drug in the past year were 60 percent more likely to suffer from asthma than children who had not, while adults who had used the drug in the past year were 75 percent more likely to suffer from the condition. People who had taken higher doses of the drug had a higher risk of asthma than people who had taken lower doses. The data also showed a connection between acetaminophen use and wheezing, eczema, runny nose and itchy eyes.

The study was not designed to prove cause and effect, however.

Researchers have been looking for causes of the significant increase in asthma rates over the past 20 years. Suggested culprits have included air pollutants and overly sterile living environments, but the current study points to another potential contributor.

According to co-author Mark FitzGerald, it was roughly 20 years ago that doctors began to recommend acetaminophen rather than aspirin for the treatment of fevers and pain in children.

"There was a change in practice and in the succeeding 20 years or so the prevalence of asthma has increased also," he said.

Although ibuprofen does not appear to increase the risk of asthma, it may cause liver and brain damage in some children.

"For adults, ibuprofen is probably the safer of the two in terms of asthma risk," co-author Mahyar Etminan said. "For kids, pediatric guidelines still point to acetaminophen use -- at least until we have a more definitive study."

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