Childhood asthma linked to pre-birth acetaminophen exposure

By Rebecca Burton • Published: May 2nd, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you’ve ever had a fever, headache or back pain, you’ve probably taken acetaminophen. The widely used pain reliever and fever reducer is helpful for shaking off a pounding headache.

But pregnant women, take note: A recent study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that taking acetaminophen has risks. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo found that children whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy were more likely to develop asthma by age 3.

Previous research also found this to be true, but it was unknown whether the childhood asthma was due to the acetaminophen use or an underlying medical condition such as the flu. The current study concluded that it was solely the use of the medication during pregnancy that caused the asthma.

During the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 100,000 children and mothers. They found that 5.7 percent of the children whose mothers who took the drug during pregnancy had asthma at age 3, and 5.1 percent had it at age 7. The link was more prevalent when women took the drug for more than one reason.

While the findings show a link between asthma in children and mothers’ use of acetaminophen, the study’s authors noted that their findings alone do not warrant making changes to recommendations about using the medication during pregnancy. After a recent review of relevant studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided not to change its position on acetaminophen by expectant mothers. The agency advises pregnant women to consult their health care provider before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicine.