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Is Acetaminophen Safe to Give to Your Children?

I came across an article on Care2 about a possible link between acetaminophen use and asthma in children.  Considering how commonly used acetaminophen is, and how medications such as aspirin are no longer considered safe for children, do parents have something to worry about there?

It’s hard to say. As the article notes, the evidence isn’t perfectly clear yet.

I consider this a good reminder to think before giving your any over the counter medication. Sometimes it’s too easy to grab for the acetaminophen when your child has an ache, rather than try other, simpler remedies. For some, this leads to overuse. The harm in this case is unclear as of yet, but it’s something to think about.

That said, there’s also a place for medication. It’s a good idea to talk to your child’s pediatrician about when it’s appropriate to use any medication. I don’t mean you have to call in before every use, but talking about what to give when in general can be helpful information.

With my own kids, I prefer to remember that low fevers are usually safe to allow to run their course, and encouraging a sick child to rest is a good thing.

It pays to consider your options with common situations such as teething. It’s especially hard to avoid using medications at night when other remedies aren’t working. Two of my kids did great on teething tablets, while my youngest wasn’t helped at all by them, for example. Neither acetaminophen nor ibuprofen did much for her either, though. If you read up on your options or talk to your pediatrician, you may come up with ways to cope that don’t involve acetaminophen if you’d prefer to avoid it.

One of the problems with figuring this link out, apparently, is that it’s hard to tell if it’s how often a child gets a viral infection that results in the use of acetaminophen, rather than the use of the medication itself.  It’s often difficult to separate correlation and causation, and that’s the challenge here. That said, a study that randomized whether a child got acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fevers seems to indicate a relationship between acetaminophen and asthma.

If you’ve been using acetaminophen for your child, it may be a good idea to discuss alternatives with your child’s pediatrician. It’s not like it’s the only option out there for treating a fever. Sometimes even a tepid bath is enough to help, although you really shouldn’t do a full on cold bath. Letting the fever be and just resting can also be an option, so long as it’s not too high. Know what the safe range is for your child’s age, versus fevers that need to be treated or that require medical attention.

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