Tylenol and the Developing Brain
By Judy Soborowicz, DC CCN
Walking through the grocery store the other night, I found myself admiring a young family with two children making their way through the produce section. As I walked by, I heard the young mother say to her husband that she had forgotten Tylenol at Target, and could he grab some Children’s Tylenol right away, as she was thinking about it. I could relate, remembering how hectic and busy I was as a mother to young children, and how I would have to put such effort into making sure I had the essentials. So it seemed this product was an essential to this mother, and I wondered if anyone had ever let her know about any potential downside to this product.
The most common use for Tylenol is for fever or pain, although acetaminophen is found in over 600 over-the-counter and prescription medications (www.knowyourdose.org). Parents want the best for their children but may not be aware that “acetaminophen was the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, with 48% of acetaminophen related cases (131 of 275) associated with accidental overdose.” Consumers may attempt to treat different conditions or symptoms at the same time with more than one product containing acetaminophen. They may not realize that acetaminophen is in each of those products and that they are at risk of acetaminophen overdose.” (FDA.gov)
One of the reasons acetaminophen causes damage to the liver is that it depletes the most potent antioxidant present and available in the body, glutathione. Glutathione is the mother of all antioxidants and the primary detoxifier in our bodies. It protects the body and prevents toxins from accumulating and causing devastating damage. Glutathione is also depleted with poor diet, pollution, medication, stress, and infection. This means that giving Tylenol for fever brought on by infection may seriously compromise your or your child’s ability to clear toxins.
It is well known that toxic substances like alcohol and drugs are much more harmful and dangerous for children than for adults, and we all know to protect an infant’s/child’s developing brain from toxins. What parents may not know is that the least beneficial time to deplete glutathione is when a child presents with a fever. In fact, a large Danish study published in JAMA involving 64,322 children found that “prenatal exposure to Tylenol may increase the risk in children of receiving a hospital diagnosis of hyperkinetic disorder or ADHD…with higher use frequency increasing risk in an exposure-response manner.” Studies show the acetaminophen also acts to interrupt the endocrine system of the child and the mother. This is significant because the mother’s hormones play a role in proper brain development of the fetus, and the developing child’s brain depends on proper hormonal communication.
Fever is a normal, protective method used by your and your child’s immune system to fight off infection, viral or bacterial, and promote repair. There is growing evidence that not only does fever provide a potent tool for our immune system to fight infection, it also triggers an essential step in the development of a healthy brain. It is important for parents to know when and when not to treat a fever. All fevers are not created equal, and not all require treatment nor is treatment of a fever a harmless act. Normal fevers, between 100° and 104°F (37.8° and 40°C) are actually beneficial for children. If your child will respond to you, make eye contact, move around, and take liquids, you can opt out of treatment. If you are concerned, instead of using acetaminophen with your child, use cool washcloths or physical cooling methods. In fact, the well-respected independently funded Cochrane Database review done in 2002 determined essentially that there was no evidence that Tylenol worked better than physical cooling methods (fanning, cool washcloth, bath) to reduce fever.
Studies have been accumulating since early 2000 about the potential harm of acetaminophen/paracetamol. Do a PUBMED search and read the studies for yourself, then make an informed decision for your family. If you are in pain during pregnancy, drug-free chiropractic is an option. Talk to your health-care provider about nutrition options and how to promote family health from within.
Judy Soborowicz practices chiropractic and nutrition at Active Health Chiropractic along with her husband John. For more info call 715-834-6333.
Sources: JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Apr;168(4):313-20. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4914. Acetaminophen use during pregnancy, behavioral problems, and hyperkinetic disorders. Liew Z1, Ritz B2, Rebordosa C3, Lee PC4, Olsen J5.
JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Apr;168(4):313-20. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4914. Acetaminophen use during pregnancy, behavioral problems, and hyperkinetic disorders. Liew Z1, Ritz B2, Rebordosa C3, Lee PC4, Olsen J5.
Int J Epidemiol. 2013 Dec;42(6):1702-13. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyt183. Epub 2013 Oct 24. Prenatal paracetamol exposure and child neurodevelopment: a sibling-controlled cohort study. Brandlistuen RE1, Ystrom E, Nulman I, Koren G, Nordeng H.
Paracetemol for Treating Fevers in Children, Published: 22 April 2002 Authors: Meremikwu MM, Oyo-Ita APrimary Review Group: Infectious Diseases Group