Prenatal paracetamol exposure and risk of asthma and elevated immunoglobulin E in childhood

S O Shaheen, R B Newson, A J Henderson, J E Headley, F D Stratton, R W Jones, D P Strachan et al.
Clinical and Experimental Allergy 2005, 35 (1): 18-25

BACKGROUND: We recently found that paracetamol (acetaminophen) use in late pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of early wheezing in the offspring.

OBJECTIVE: To see whether use of paracetamol in late pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of asthma, wheezing and other atopic outcomes in the child at school age.

METHODS: In the population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, we measured associations of paracetamol and aspirin use in late pregnancy (20-32 weeks) with asthma, hayfever, eczema (n = 8511) and wheezing (8381) in the offspring at 69-81 months, and with atopy (positive skin prick test to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, cat or grass, n = 6527) and blood total IgE (n = 5148) at 7 years. We used logistic and linear regression to analyse binary outcomes and log-transformed IgE, respectively, controlling for potential confounders.

RESULTS: Use of paracetamol, but not aspirin, in late pregnancy was positively associated with asthma (odds ratios (ORs), comparing children whose mothers took paracetamol 'sometimes' and 'most days/daily' with those whose mothers never took it, 1.22 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06-1.41) and 1.62 (95% CI: 0.86-3.04), respectively; P trend = 0.0037), wheezing (ORs 1.20 (95% CI: 1.02-1.40) and 1.86 (95% CI: 0.98-3.55), respectively; P trend = 0.011), and total IgE (geometric mean ratios 1.14 (95% CI: 1.03-1.26) and 1.52 (95% CI: 0.98-2.38), respectively; P trend = 0.0034), but not hayfever, eczema or skin test positivity. The proportion of asthma attributable to paracetamol use in late pregnancy, assuming a causal relation, was 7%.

CONCLUSION: Paracetamol exposure in late gestation may cause asthma, wheezing and elevated IgE in children of school age.

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