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Acetaminophen: A Second Look

May 26, 2014 03:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

When McNeil Laboratories first came up with Tylenol, its main selling point was that acetaminophen was safer than taking aspirin. Now Tylenol and its many generic versions fill the shelves at drug and big box stores. Lots of people down a pair of acetaminophen without a second thought. Recent research, however, may change that behavior.

First and foremost is the connection between acetaminophen and liver damage—something the medical community has known about for quite some time. This most often occurs when a patient has taken more than the suggested dosage. But even if a patient follows directions, their risk rises if they take it when they have consumed three or more alcoholic drinks. Aspirin and ibuprofen may be the way to go if you’ve had a few.

But other health concerns have also arisen—and the most recent one is especially disturbing. Researchers followed 64,000 Danish mothers and their children. They tracked the study’s pediatric subjects from their first trimester in utero to as long as 15 years of age. The probability of a child developing ADHD symptoms severe enough to require medication increased by 63 percent when his or her mother took acetaminophen during the last two trimesters of her pregnancy. It rose by 28 percent when acetaminophen was only taken in the third trimester. Taking the drug only during the first trimester produced a small, nine percent, increase.

Bottom Line: Physicians and scientists around the world caution that more research is needed to gather details as to when and in whom acetaminophen is most likely to boost the risk. In the meantime, mothers-to-be should take the drug judiciously. —S.H.
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