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Link between paracetamol and childhood asthma 'weak'

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There is not enough evidence to change the guidance on paracetamol over a link to childhood asthma, according to a new report.

It has been suggested that asthma in children can be caused by mothers taking paracetamol while they are pregnant and giving their children the painkiller in their early years.

The review, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood online journal, states respiratory infections are the most likely cause of asthma in children and the link with the painkiller is “overstated”.

Researchers examining how respiratory infections affect asthma looked at 11 studies carried out between 1967 and last year. Seven of them concerned paracetamol use during pregnancy but only one took respiratory infections into account. Paracetamol is commonly used in the treatment of respiratory infections and the conclusion of the studies varied.

Six of the 11 studies involved children taking paracetamol up to the age of two when their lungs were still developing. They all suggested a link between paracetamol and asthma but mainly before respiratory infections were taken into account.

The researchers did find that the more often children took the painkiller the more likely they were to suffer from asthma, but the connection was nowhere near as significant when they had respiratory infections.

Following the study the authors came to the conclusion that it is unlikely that paracetamol is a significant asthma risk.

Just one of the 11 studies looked into the effects respiratory infections in mothers have on their babies while they are pregnant.

The link between paracetamol and asthma is “weak” and the researchers think it is unlikely that there will be trials to explore the connection further as they would mean babies being given “dummy pills” and it will be difficult to find enough parents willing to allow it.

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