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Giving Asthmatic Kids Tylenol Is OK

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A national study debunks the theory that acetaminophen — the main ingredient in pain relievers such as Tylenol — worsens asthma conditions in children, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The news is reassuring for parents whose kids suffer from asthma, according to Deborah Gentile, study author, and director of allergy and asthma clinical research for Allegheny Health Network. She says,

Children with asthma have more respiratory infections. There’s probably something about their immune system that when they get sick, it triggers the asthma.

The National Institutes of Health funded the research, which was a randomized, 18-site, double-blind study. The researchers gathered data on 300 children between the ages of 12 to 59 months who had chronic, mild asthma. Half the participants were told to take acetaminophen for pain and fever, as needed, while the other half took ibuprofen. All the participants continued to take their respective asthma medications, and parents and guardians were told to use discretion in giving the children pain relievers.

Recommendations not to take acetaminophen are not part of set asthma treatments, Gentile says. This study is part of a larger effort to establish better guidelines.

Regular appointments at the local Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UMPC and Allegheny General Hospital, as well as unscheduled visits to private health-care centers and doctors’ offices were recorded. The director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute, Sally Wenzel, headed the local arm of the study.

The entire study took 48 weeks, ending in April 2015. The researchers measured the number of times asthma got worse in participants and how often the children needed treatment with either acetaminophen and ibuprofen. They likewise measured the percentage of days asthma was controlled, the average use of asthma medications such as rescue albuterol, and the frequency of unscheduled doctors’ visits for asthma care.

There were 226 children who made it through the end of the study. Among them, the rate of worsened asthma, known as exacerbations, “did not differ significantly between the groups,” the research states. The average of exacerbation was 0.81 — less than one attack per child during the 48 weeks — and asthma control days for both groups was at 86%. The use of rescue albuterol averaged three inhalations weekly, and unscheduled visits for asthma care tallied less than one episode per child.

The study did note that its results may not apply to other age groups or people with severe asthma problems.

Erick Forno, a pediatric pulmonologist at the Children’s Pediatric Asthma Center, says a larger trial might help support this study. In the meantime, he says these results are a “relief to parents.” He adds, “They aren’t giving anything to their children that is going to make their asthma worse. They can feel reassured that giving them Tylenol is OK.”

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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