Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in common over the counter drug Tylenol. It is a pain reliever and fever reducer that has been used for decades as an effective treatment for mild to moderate aches, pains, and fevers.
Recently research suggests that taking acetaminophen while pregnant may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder in children.
Recent Controversy Connecting Tylenol Use During Pregnancy and Autism
Several studies have linked Tylenol use in pregnant women to autistic behaviors in children, including repetitive movements and delayed development.
This association was first reported by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in 2002 and has since been replicated by multiple studies across countries and continents. One recent study found that taking four or more doses per week while pregnant doubled the risk of having a child with ASD.
In 2018, researchers did a meta-analysis of seven studies involving 132,738 pairs of mothers and children. The analysis revealed a 20% higher risk of autism for children who had prolonged exposure to acetaminophen in the womb. In 2019, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that children whose cord blood samples contained the highest levels of acetaminophen — the generic name for the drug Tylenol — were roughly three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder later in childhood, compared to children with the lowest levels of acetaminophen in their cord blood.
Studies conducted by both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have revealed a link between a mother taking acetaminophen in her third trimester and an increased likelihood of their children developing autism.
The ACOG report found that women who took acetaminophen during their late pregnancy were almost 50% more likely to have a child with ASD than those who did not take the drug. Furthermore, the CDC study found that there was an even greater risk of ASD among children whose mothers had taken acetaminophen during all three trimesters of pregnancy.
We wrote about a related topic over a year ago here -> Acetaminophen Linked to Language Delays in Children
What is Tylenol’s active ingredient?
Tylenol’s active ingredient is acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever, and fever reducer. It works by temporarily reducing the body’s production of natural chemicals that cause pain and inflammation. Acetaminophen does not reduce swelling or soreness like some other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
In lawsuits filed by parents against Johnson & Johnson, it has been alleged that Tylenol has caused autism in children whose mothers took the medication while pregnant. The lawsuits allege that the use of the drug during pregnancy harms fetal development and increases the risk of ASD.
Potential mechanisms involved
At this time, researchers are still trying to better understand the exact mechanisms at work that may be causing this link between acetaminophen and autism. One potential mechanism is that taking the drug during pregnancy can disrupt a woman’s hormones, which in turn could affect fetal brain development. Another theory is that high levels of acetaminophen in a mother’s system could interfere with her body’s ability to create serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential for normal brain functioning in children and adults alike.
A handful of lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson in recent years claiming that their popular pain reliever Tylenol was responsible for causing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their children. The cases generally allege that Tylenol contained unsafe levels of heavy metals or other toxins that led to ASD in the children they administered it to.
Implications of these findings
The implications of these findings are very serious as they suggest that pregnant women need to be extra cautious when it comes to their use of medications like Tylenol or other forms of acetaminophen while pregnant. Given the fact
How much acetaminophen is too much?
The studies found that the risk of having a child with ASD increased when women took more than four doses of acetaminophen during their pregnancy. The CDC study in particular noted that taking acetaminophen during all three trimesters was associated with a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
At this time, researchers are still trying to better understand the exact mechanisms at work that may be causing this link between acetaminophen and autism. Possible theories include disruptions in a woman’s hormone levels that can impact fetal brain development or disruption of serotonin production which is essential for normal brain functioning.
What products other than Tylenol contain acetaminophen?
Other products besides Tylenol that contain acetaminophen include Aspirin-Free Anacin, Excedrin, Sudafed Sinus and Allergy, Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine, TheraFlu Warming Relief Nighttime, Vicks DayQuil Sinus Severe Congestion & Cough LiquiCaps, Little Fevers Children’s Fever/Pain Reliever, Dey Labs Uniserts II Acetaminophen Elixir Liquid, Mapap Children’s Suspension Liquid Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer.
Other generic store brands also contain acetaminophen but vary by retailer. In addition to over-the-counter medications, some prescription drugs contain acetaminophen.
What should you do if your child has autism and you took Tylenol during pregnancy?
Dealing with a child who thinks and learns differently than other children is stressful. Most of the time there is no reason why some children are born with ASD, but here we have some evidence that Tylenol or acetaminophen may contribute to the development of the condition.
Our drug injury lawyers at Sadaka Law want to hear your story. Call us and let’s see if you have a case, 1-800-810-3457.
Did you know that if Tylenol were to go through FDA approval today it would be a prescription drug?
Yes. All over-the-counter pain relievers were grandfathered in when the Food and Drug Act was amended in 1962.
What are the benefits of acetaminophen?
Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol, has been used safely and effectively to treat pain, fever, and other symptoms for more than 50 years. It is an analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer). Acetaminophen does not contain aspirin or ibuprofen. It works by blocking signals in the brain that cause pain and by reducing inflammation throughout the body. Acetaminophen doesn’t have any of the side effects associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as stomach upset or ulcers. Additionally, acetaminophen has very few drug interactions compared to NSAIDs and some other medications.
When taken at recommended doses, acetaminophen is a safe and effective medication. It can provide relief from mild to moderate pain, as well as reduce fever. Acetaminophen has been used in children since the late 1950s and is the preferred medication for relieving minor aches and pains in children due to its safety profile. Because it doesn’t contain aspirin or ibuprofen, it’s generally considered the safest choice for children under 12 who are experiencing pain or fever symptoms.
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. It can manifest itself in different ways, ranging from severe to mild. Symptoms may include difficulty with social interaction, verbal expression, and repetitive behaviors.
Although there is no known cause, some research suggests that environmental factors such as exposure to toxins like mercury or lead may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This has led to speculation that pharmaceuticals like Tylenol might be linked to ASDs due to their potential for containing trace amounts of these metals.
If you believe that your child has been adversely affected by Tylenol, speak with a lawyer right away as you may be entitled to compensation for damages suffered due to its use.