London: The fear that paracetamol given to babies can trigger asthma may be exaggerated, find researchers.
The use of paracetamol during pregnancy and/or a child's early life has been implicated in the development of childhood asthma - prompting concerns to be raised about the drug's continued use during these periods.
According to researchers, the current evidence for a link between the drug's use and the development of asthma is "weak" and "overstated" and respiratory infections are likely to have an influential role.
For the study, the team studied research databases for published evidence spanning a period between 1967 and 2013.
Out of the 1,192 potentially relevant studies, 11 were suitable for inclusion in the analysis.
Although these studies consistently pointed to a link between the drug and the development of asthma, the association was considerably weakened after respiratory tract infections during infancy had been accounted for.
While a link was found between the number of times a child had been given paracetamol and that child's asthma risk, this link all but disappeared when respiratory tract infections were taken into consideration, making it unlikely that paracetamol is a clinically important risk factor in asthma, the authors noted.
A proper trial looking at the influence of paracetamol on the development of asthma is highly unlikely as it would require some babies to be given a dummy pill which many parents would not be willing to do.
"But the evidence of an association between early life paracetamol and asthma is often overstated, and there is currently insufficient evidence to support changing guidelines in the use of this medicine," they concluded.
The review of the current evidence was published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.