Drugs for minor pains may increase autism, ADHD risk if used in pregnancy

Acetaminophen is used to treat many conditions such as headache, muscle aches, arthritis, backache, toothaches, colds, and fevers.

It can reduce minor aches and pains, and decreases fever.

Drug brands containing acetaminophen include TYLENOL, Ofirmev, Mapap, FeverAll, Pharbetol, Tylophen, Tactinal, Mapap Extra Strength, Tactinal Extra Strength, Children’s Silapap, and more.

In a recent study at Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that exposure to acetaminophen in the womb may increase a child’s risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.

The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry. The lead author is Xiaobing Wang, M.D. from the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Autism is a complex developmental disorder that affects how a person behaves, interacts with others and learns. ADHD is marked by a pattern of hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

In the study, the team analyzed data from the Boston Birth Cohort, a long-term study of factors influencing pregnancy and child development.

They collected umbilical cord blood from 996 births and measured the amount of acetaminophen and two of its byproducts in each sample.

By the time the children were an average of 8.9 years, 25.8% had been diagnosed with ADHD only, 6.6% with autism only and 4.2% with ADHD and autism.

The researchers classified the amount of acetaminophen and its byproducts in the samples into thirds, from lowest to highest.

Compared to the lowest third, the middle third of exposure was linked to about 2.26 times the risk for ADHD.

The highest third of exposure was linked to 2.86 times the risk. Similarly, autism risk was higher for those in the middle third (2.14 times) and the highest third (3.62 times).

These results support earlier studies linking acetaminophen exposure in the womb with ADHD and autism and underscore the need for additional research.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration urges careful consideration before using any pain-relieving medication during pregnancy.

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