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Details about the connection between OTC acetaminophen and autism
A 2021 study examining medical records of more than 73,000 mother-child pairs across Europe found that kids exposed to OTC acetaminophen while in the womb were 19% more likely to be diagnosed with autism or one of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than those who weren’t.
This suggests that using acetaminophen during pregnancy might increase the risk of having a child with autism or one of the ASDs.
There are several studies that have been able to associate the use of acetaminophen in pregnancy with an increased risk of ASD, including:
- A 2018 metanalysis of seven studies involving 132,178 pairs of mothers and children suggested excessive use of acetaminophen during pregnancy increased a child’s risk of autism by 20%.
- Another study involving samples of 996 mother-child pairs of umbilical blood found that children exposed to higher acetaminophen levels were up to 3.62x more likely to be diagnosed with autism.
Doctors involved with the study recommended that acetaminophen be used in pregnancy “only when necessary”--however, estimates suggest that up to 70% of pregnant women use some form of acetaminophen during pregnancy.
While the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has placed acetaminophen in Pregnancy Category B–a class reserved for drugs that have not shown a fetal risk–the bottom line is that:
- Pregnancy Category B drugs have not been subject to controlled studies in pregnant women;
- Pregnancy Category B drugs have been shown to have adverse effects in animal reproduction studies that were not confirmed in controlled studies of women; and,
- There are currently no pain relievers included in Pregnancy Risk Category A, the class of drugs reserved for medications that have been deemed completely “safe.”
Details about children diagnosed with autism or one of the autism spectrum disorders
ASD currently affects about 1 in 59 children–and, while the incidence is rising, it’s unclear if this results from increased diagnosis or increased occurrence.
Because people with autism are said to be “on the spectrum,” an individual child may exhibit various symptoms that range from mild to severe.
Some of the most common ASD symptoms include:
- Lack of social skills. Children with autism have difficulty interacting with others–those that are considered “on the spectrum” usually begin exhibiting social symptoms between ages 8 to 10 months old.
- Communications problems. About 40% of kids with autism don’t talk at all; between 25% and 30% develop some language skills in infancy but lose them later; while others don’t begin talking until later in life.
- Patterns of behavior. Many children with autism behave in ways that seem unusual or have unusual interests.
Current treatments for ASD seek to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life–ASD affects each person differently, meaning that people with ASD have unique strengths and challenges and different treatment needs.
Treatment plans usually involve multiple professionals and are catered to the individual–which could mean that treatment of a child with autism or an autism spectrum disorder can be lifelong and expensive.
The team at National Justice Assistance encourages pregnant mothers that took Tylenol® or over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen products for pain relief and gave birth to an autistic child to request a free, private case evaluation for potential compensation.
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