Calpol ‘could double the risk of children developing asthma’, study claims

Calpol ‘could double the risk of children developing asthma’, study claims
New research claims youngsters who are given paracetamol in the first two years of their life may be at a higher risk of developing asthma (Photo: Shutterstock)

Children who are given Calpol medicine as toddlers could be at double the risk of developing asthma when they get older, according to new research.

The medicine is specifically designed for children’s growing bodies and is the most common brand of paracetamol given to youngsters, helping to soothe symptoms such as headaches, coughs and teething pain.

But a recent study claims youngsters who are given paracetamol in the first two years of their life may be at a higher risk of developing asthma by the age of 18.

The study found the risk of asthma was 1.8 times higher if children had regularly been given paracetamol (Photo: Shutterstock)
The study found the risk of asthma was 1.8 times higher if children had regularly been given paracetamol (Photo: Shutterstock)

Paracetamol and asthma

The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Melbourne, Australia, looked at 620 children and followed them from birth until they were 18 years old.

The children were selected for the study before they were born as they were already considered to be at high risk of developing an allergy-related illness, with at least one family member having a self-reported allergic disease, such as asthma, eczema or hay-fever.

After their birth, a nurse rang the family every four weeks for the first 15 months, then at 18 months and at two years old to ask how many days in the previous weeks the child had taken paracetamol.

At age 18, the children gave a blood or saliva sample with results showing that in those with a variant of the gluthaione S-transferase (GST) gene, GSTP1, the risk of asthma was 1.8 times higher having been given regular paracetamol.

However, the findings only showed there may be a link between paracetamol and asthma, not that the medicine directly causes the lung condition.

Does Calpol pose a health risk?

Ms Xin (Daisy) Dai, nurse and PhD candidate at the Allergy and Lung Health Unit at the University of Melbourne, Australia, who was involved in the study said: “Our findings provide more evidence that paracetamol use in infancy may have an adverse effect on respiratory health for children with particular genetic profiles and could be a possible cause of asthma.

“There is mounting evidence that the GST superfamily of genes, including three major classes -GSTM1, GSTT1 and GSTP1 – are associated with various diseases, including cancers, asthma, atherosclerosis, allergies, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Our study adds to this body of evidence.”

Johnson & Johnson Ltd want to reassure parents and carers that Calpol medicine is the result of decades of research (Photo: Shutterstock)
Johnson & Johnson Ltd want to reassure parents and carers that Calpol medicine is the result of decades of research (Photo: Shutterstock)

While the recent study found paracetamol use in the first two years of life may be associated with reduced lung function in adolescence, Calpol manufacturer Johnson & Johnson dismiss claims the medicine can be harmful to youngsters.

A spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company said: “Johnson & Johnson Ltd would like to reassure parents and carers that CALPOL® products are the result of decades of experience, research and knowledge.

“The research presented at a scientific congress followed a group of 620 children, all of whom were potentially at high risk of developing an allergy-related disease.

“The research did not show that taking paracetamol caused children to develop asthma.

“Some young children require more paracetamol than others, possibly because they experience more childhood illnesses; it may be these respiratory conditions which cause asthma to develop, not paracetamol use.

“CALPOL® is approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK, which continually monitors the safety of medicines in light of emerging evidence.”