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Asthma Health Center

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Baby Acetaminophen Tied to Asthma

46% Increased Risk of Asthma With Baby Acetaminophen Use

Does Acetaminophen Cause Asthma? continued...

However, Beasley and colleagues note that there are several reasons to suspect this is so:

  • The link between acetaminophen and asthma is strong.
  • The more acetaminophen a child uses, the higher that child's risk of severe asthma.
  • Acetaminophen is linked to asthma in many different cultures with different medical practices.
  • Acetaminophen use came before asthma symptoms appeared.
  • Asthma prevalence shot up in the same years acetaminophen use became widespread.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Columbia University researcher R. Graham Barr, MD, DrPH, agrees with Beasley that while the study does not prove acetaminophen causes asthma, a clinical study is urgently needed.

"This is a major public health concern," Barr tells WebMD. "Given the widespread use of acetaminophen and ibuprofen among kids -- and asthma being the disease of greatest burden in kids -- this would seem to be an important topic for further study."

Barr notes that previous studies have linked acetaminophen, but not ibuprofen, to asthma and have linked use of acetaminophen during pregnancy to childhood asthma.

Barr's own research team previously found that high-level acetaminophen use raised women's risk of adult-onset asthma.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty about this," he says. "There might be something going on, but do we have a clear public health recommendation at this time? I don't think we do."

Childhood Lung Problems Increase Adult Asthma

Underscoring the importance of early-childhood events for later asthma is a study from the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Fernando D. Martinez, MD, director of the Arizona Respiratory Center at the University of Arizona, and colleagues followed 849 children from birth to age 22.

Those with adult asthma were:

  • 7.4 times more likely to have had childhood asthma
  • 14 times more likely to have had persistent wheezing as children
  • 3.6 times more likely to have had a childhood mold allergy
  • Twice as likely to have had low airway function at age 6

More than 70% of the adults who had adult asthma were women.

"We conclude that asthma that apparently develops early in adult life affects mainly women and is commonly the clinical expression of latent changes of airway responses that are present in the preschool years," the researchers conclude.

The Beasley and Martinez studies, and Barr's editorial, appear in the Sept. 20 issue of The Lancet.

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