Researchers cannot decide if acetaminophen is responsible for the increased prevalence of asthma in children. Conflicting studies show there may be some type of link between acetaminophen use and the development of asthma. Does acetaminophen trigger asthma in children?
The use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) in children increased after the link was found between Reye’s Syndrome and aspirin use during viral infections. The diagnosis of asthma in children began to increase after this switch to acetaminophen for fever and pain relief. This correlation has led to many research studies to see if acetaminophen is causing more cases of asthma in children.
Many studies are finding a correlation between acetaminophen use and asthma in children. Several of the results of these studies can be found at Medical News Today, Chest Journal and in an article on Medline Plus.
However, a more recent study suggests that acetaminophen might not be the sole culprit. In another article on Medline Plus, German researcher, Dr. Eva Schnabel, believes the studies may not have been thorough enough. Dr. Schnabel argues that acetaminophen only posed an issue when used to reduce pain or fever for airway-related infections, but not for other types of illness such as urinary tract infection.
The problem is that many research studies are based on questionnaires to be answered by parents or patients. It is often difficult to remember exactly what medication was taken for what illness, especially over a period of time. The fact that acetaminophen is the most common fever reducer and pain killer used today might just make the issue harder to clarify.
The correlation between the time acetaminophen became more widely used and the increase in incidence in asthma in children may be a coincidence. Perhaps the acetaminophen-asthma link is only present when used in illnesses involving the airways as noted above. The virus causing the illness might be a trigger for asthma, or it could be a combination of acetaminophen with certain viruses.
The increase in asthma diagnoses in children may not be explained for years, such as the increase in type 1 diabetes in children and the general population. As with type 1 diabetes, there may be a genetic predisposition to asthma with some environmental trigger needed to develop the condition. These triggers could be related to viruses, medications, environmental toxins and even dietary factors. By concentrating on one factor, acetaminophen use, researchers are overlooking other possible triggers for asthma in children.
There are no valid studies as of yet that show acetaminophen use actually causes asthma in children. Correlations are strong in many of the studies listed, but more research needs to be done.
There should be care in using any medication, so be sure to check with your child’s doctor about proper use and dosage of any medication for your child. Aspirin and ibuprofen can induce asthma attacks in some children who are sensitive to the ingredients in those products. Until there is a positive link found between acetaminophen use and asthma, it is still safer for the reduction of your child’s fever or pain.
Medical News Today; Acetaminophen Use Associated with Asthma, COPD, and Decreased Lung Function
Mahyar Etminan, PharmD, Msc, et al.; Acetaminophen Use and the Risk of Asthma in Children and Adults; Chest Journal
Health Day; Tylenol Use Linked to Asthma, Other Allergies in Teens; Medline Plus
Frederik Joelving; Acetaminophen no asthma trigger after all?; Medline Plus