Consumption of popular pain reliever during pregnancy may put children at increased risk for asthma

By Prof. Richard Beasley

A new study published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy reveals that children whose mothers used the popular pain reliever paracetamol during pregnancy were at an increased risk of wheezing when compared to non-users.

Paracetamol (or acetaminophen) is a widely used over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer, commonly used for the relief of headaches and other minor aches and pains.

Led by Professor Richard Beasley, DSc, of the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, researchers reviewed all published randomized controlled trials and observational studies investigating the effect of paracetamol use during pregnancy on the subsequent development of wheezing and/or asthma in offspring. Six studies were identified and included in the review.

Results demonstrated that paracetamol used at any stage of pregnancy was associated with a subsequent 21% increased risk of asthma in children between 2.5 and 7 years old.

Although there is currently not enough evidence to recommend the avoidance of paracetamol during pregnancy, women should execute caution and use paracetamol only when required for significant pain or discomfort.

“Rates of asthma have been increasing around the world for several decades,” Beasley notes. “Definitive further research into the effect of paracetamol use in pregnancy on the risk of asthma in offspring is urgently required so that appropriate recommendations for pregnant women can be made.”

This study is published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy.

Full citation: Beasley et al. Paracetamol in pregnancy and the risk of wheezing in offspring: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical & Experimental Allergy (2011); DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2010.03691.x.

About the Author: Prof. Richard Beasley, MBChB, FRACP, DM, is affiliated with the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand.

Clinical & Experimental Allergy (CEA) is the Official Journal of the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology, published by Wiley-Blackwell. CEA strikes an excellent balance between clinical and scientific articles and carries regular reviews and editorials written by leading authorities in their field - we also consider short "hot topic" papers for fast-tracking. Truly international in appeal, CEA publishes clinical and experimental observations in disease in all fields of medicine in which allergic hypersensitivity plays a part. CEA can be accessed online at:


  1. Jane Jane United States says:

    Acetaminophen is terrible to take as a women, regardless of whether you're pregnant or not.  There's plenty of studies which are now coming out that are showing how bad it is for women, and the fed is even starting to drop the allowable doses of acetaminophen in all kinds of things like cough medicines, etc.

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