Paracetamol use raises childhood asthma risk

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A strong association between paracetamol use in infancy and increased risk of asthma by age 6-7 years, suggested by researchers in a new study published in the Lancet.

This was a cross-sectional study, which used data from the questionnaires used in the first and third parts of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) programme. This multicentre study was carried out in many countries, looking at two age groups of schoolchildren (6 to 7 year-olds, and 13 to 14 year-old adolescents), chosen from a random sample of schools in the defined geographical areas of the study.

In all, 226,248 children aged 6 to 7 years from 87 centres in 34 countries participated in the programme, and completed both the questionnaires. Seven centres were excluded for having obtained data for less than 1,000 participants, and seven centres that had a response rate below 60% were also excluded. This left 205,487 children from 73 centres in 31 countries for the first analysis. The analysis of paracetamol use for fever during the first year of life included 194,555 children aged 6 to 7 years from 69 centres in 29 countries. The multivariate analyses included the 105,041 children aged 6 to 7 years from 47 centres in 20 countries who had complete covariate data.

The researchers conclude that “use of paracetamol in the first year of life, and in later childhood, is associated with risk of asthma, hay fever, and eczema at age 6 to 7 years”. They suggest that exposure to paracetamol might be a risk factor for the development of asthma in childhood.

Professor Richard Beasley from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand in Wellington and others at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences in the University of Auckland, New Zealand, with international colleagues from Germany, China, Malta and other parts of the world, carried out this research.

The study was funded from a variety of sources, including the BUPA Foundation, the Health Research Council of New Zealand and other research foundations, pharmaceutical companies and the New Zealand Lottery Board. It was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet.

Source: Lancet, UK

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