A new study has found that paracetamol can interfere with the brain development of children, and can even be dangerous for unborn kids.
Researchers at Uppsala University examined paracetamol, one of the most commonly used drugs for pain and fever in children, by giving small doses of it to ten-day-old mice. They later carried out tests on the behavioral habits of the mice in adulthood.
They found that the mice could be hyperactive in adulthood, could display behavioural disturbances, and could have lower memory capability compared to the mice that weren’t given the dose, the Local reported.
Researchers said that the exposure to and presence of paracetamol during a critical period of brain development can induce long-lasting effects on cognitive function and alter the adult response to paracetamol in mice.
They added that parents should be careful in administering the drug. (Read: Why you don’t need medicine every time you have slight fever)
Researcher Henrik Viberg told the Upsala Nya Tidning newspaper that this shows that there are reasons to restrict the use of paracetamol at the end of pregnancy and to hold back from giving the medicine to infants.
The study was published in the online Toxicological Sciences journal.
So when should I take antipyretics like Paracetamol?
Fever up to 38 degree (102° F) might be considered as a safe, beneficial level that should not be interfered with antipyretics every time. Antipyretics should be used only when the temperature of the body is raised high enough to cause discomfort. In general, body temperature between 102° F and 104°F may cause uneasiness, so it’s better to bring it up to or below 102° F. Fever that rises above 104° F is definitely harmful and should be reduced with quick action. (Read: Apollo Hospitals launches fever clinic to tackle recurring, unknown fevers)
The use of antipyretics to reduce fever is still controversial. Since all the available anitipyretics are pretty effective in managing fever, safety should be the main criteria while taking them. Common side-effects of frequent use of antipyretics include nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, breathing difficulties and headache. (Read: Painkillers or analgesics: Side-effects and precautions)
Most adverse effects due to antipyretics are a result of overdose (due to ignorance and negligence). Most of them have been cited in western literature and therefore may differ from Indian population. Overdose of paracetamol use has shown to cause liver toxicity and may also have an effect on circadian rhythm in healthy individuals. Ibuprofen is may lead to digestive disorders and, rarely, gastrointestinal bleeding. Kidney insufficiency and gastritis are also known adverse effects of antipyretics. (Read: Ibuprofen — why you shouldn’t pop these pills indiscriminately)
To summarize, antipyretics should not be used to bring down fever completely. The use of antipyretics should be limited just for symptomatic relief and to ensure that it is not raised to a dangerous level. Most of the times people also use antipyretics when there is minimal fever or to prevent fever from recurring. However, there is no evidence suggesting that antipyretics prevent fever from recurring. Also, half of times the dosage taken is incorrect. With this the chances of toxicity and adverse effects increase. Therefore, it is better to check the labels before taking an antipyretic drug and think about the long term complications you might have to face.