Acetaminophen toxicity on the rise
We live in a world in which we want/need fast fixes. We have no tolerance for anything that feels uncomfortable, including physical pain, so at the first sign of it, we pop a pill or find other ways to numb the sensation. While not wanting to feel pain is completely understandable, we also need to look at the risks involved with how we choose to deal with that pain.
One of the most widely used over-the-counter pain relievers is acetaminophen, a drug that can also be found in more than 600 products aimed at reducing fever and pain from such things as arthritis, backache, headaches, toothaches, cold and flu, muscle aches and menstrual cramps. In fact, Health Canada names acetaminophen as the most used pain reliever in Canada.
It’s pretty much a given that the majority of the population has used acetaminophen at some point, sporadically or regularly. With unprecedented ease of access and continued reassurances by manufacturers and doctors that it is completely safe, we simply pop these pills without considering the actual risk, especially when it comes to children. But as the incidences of liver damage and even death continue to rise, even Health Canada has determined we should probably lower the recommended dosage.
To give you an idea of the prevalence of acetaminophen use, a 2009 study revealed that 26 per cent of children in the United States under 24 months, and about 10 per cent of children between two and five years, have received at least one dose of acetaminophen in the past week. While that may not seem like a lot at first glance, Johnson & Johnson revealed there were 820 deaths associated with acetaminophen overdose between 2000 and 2011 and further reports there were 26,300 acetaminophen-related hospitalizations between 2004 and 2013, not including those in British Columbia or Quebec, it becomes more alarming.
Specific research on the toxicity of acetaminophen clearly shows the drug is linked to such things as liver and kidney damage, certain cancers, risk of motor milestone delay and impaired communication skills in 18-month old children, lower IQ scores and poorer attention span in five-yearolds, physical abnormalities in sexual organ development in children and even death, to name just some of the numerous side effects. A 2016 Spanish study further links acetaminophen use during pregnancy with ADHD/ autism in children.
As of January 2017 alone, there are at least eight published studies in reputable journals that look at the long-term effects of acetaminophen use during pregnancy or childhood, all of which report negative neurological function. The issue with acetaminophen is compounded by the fact that it is contained in a number of different products for a number of different issues, which makes it very easy for people to accidentally overdose by taking these products simultaneously.
When reaching for acetaminophen for fever, one of the first things you should know is that fever is almost always a good sign your body is doing what it is designed to do. A 2012 study in the World Journal of Clinical Pediatrics states, “Fever per se is self-limiting and rarely serious, provided the cause is known and fluid loss is replaced.”
“Fever phobia” is at an alltime high, especially with new parents. My health practitioner advised that I shouldn’t be too concerned or treat a fever until it reaches 102 F (38.88 C). However, this study suggests your body has a “hypothalamic set-point that balances heat production and heat loss so effectively that the temperature does not climb up relentlessly and does not exceed an upper limit of 42 C.” Further, research concludes: “Within this upper range [range, 40 C to 42 C] there is no evidence fever is injurious to tissue.”
Treating a fever can even prolong the illness or worsen it in some cases, according to researchers. That being said, if you have any concerns, you should always speak to a health professional.
Next column, I will discuss a number of natural alternatives to acetaminophen that work as well, or better, for such things as pain and fever according to studies. In the interim, if you have any natural health questions or something you would like more information about, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cynthia Mcmurray is a Custom Content Editor with a passion for living healthy. She has written several books and research papers for nutritional and supplement companies, and can be regularly found in the health food aisle. She lives in Dartmouth with her family (two and four-legged).
Health Canada names acetaminophen as the most used pain reliever in Canada. However, studies suggest accidental overdoses are on the rise and the drug can be especially toxic to children and pregnant women.