Babies exposed to paracetamol are more likely to develop asthma, new study suggests
WOMEN who take paracetamol during pregnancy may be putting their baby at risk of developing asthma as a child, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK used data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, and also revealed that babies who were given paracetamol were almost a third more likely to develop asthma.
The study, which was the largest of its kind, involved tracking children until the age of seven from almost 115,000 pregnancies.
It revealed the strongest association of asthma development by age three was seen when a mother used paracetamol during pregnancy for more than one illness, and when the babies in infanthood used the pain killers.
The use of the drug during pregnancy increased the risk of asthma development by almost 13 per cent.
Children who were given paracetamol during infancy were 29 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with asthma by the age of three, with a similar rate at age seven.
The team of researchers also found that the reason for taking the medication did not affect the chances of asthma. This suggests the increased chance of asthma may be due to paracetamol, not to the illness it is used to treat.
A new study suggests taking paracetamol during pregnancy could increase the risk of asthma in your unborn baby. Picture: iStock.Source:istock
The researchers found “modest associations” between the use of paracetamol and childhood asthma, both for use during pregnancy and use by the child during the first six months of life.
Although there have been previous studies on the association between paracetamol exposure and asthma development, this study revealed the possible reason the paracetamol developed asthma was because it can induce ‘oxidative stress’, which usually triggers an allergic response.
Being the most commonly used painkiller among pregnant women and infants, Jonathan Burdon from the National Asthma Council Australia said pregnant women and mothers should not be alarmed by the research, and that no new guidelines would take place for paracetamol just yet.
“The study is interesting, because paracetamol is so commonly used during pregnancy,” Dr Burdon told news.com.au.
“The general feeling about paracetamol is that it’s safe to use during pregnancy, but with any other medication during that time, we recommend taking it only when needed.
“This paper is talking about three and seven year olds, and although it is a big study, I would interpret the results with caution. Women should feel that if they need to take Panadol during pregnancy, they should.”
According to the Australian Asthma Handbook, women should use paracetamol when pregnant, but should avoid unnecessary use.
“I don’t think this study will change recommendations as it’s only one study,” Dr Burdon said. “We have a 12 per cent rate of asthma in Australia, which is very high on world standards. The reason for that is not really known and there’s a number of theories.
“But as for paracetamol, as with any medicine during pregnancy, it should be taken on a needs basis, but not just because you ‘might’ require it.
“Expecting mothers should consult their doctor if they are ill or require further medical; advice.”