Ac­etaminophen tox­i­c­ity on the rise

South Shore Breaker - - HOME&GARDEN - CYN­THIA MCMURRAY HEALTHY LIV­ING cm­c­mur­ray@her­ald.ca

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 cm­c­mur­ray@her­ald.ca.

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).

123RF

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.

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