The danger of treating children’s fever with acetaminophen and ibuprofen

Posted on by Barbara H. Kozak

The administration to children of paracetamol and ibuprofen in combination to reduce fever is a widespread practice among parents. The popularization of this treatment responds to the erroneous belief that it is more effective and reduces the side effects of analgesics or antipyretics in children, as most pediatricians defended until a few years ago. However, the medical studies carried out so far have not found any scientific evidence to support these theses .

The latest research on the combined treatments of ibuprofen and paracetamol, carried out jointly by the pharmacology departments of the universities of Arkansas and Kentucky, has yielded even worse conclusions. Not only do they lack effectiveness, but they “aggravate fever and make the flu worse” , even in children’s solution.

In the study published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a survey with unsuccessful results was also documented: half of the parents studied provided too high doses of these analgesics, which can be purchased without a prescription and to which go even if the child only has a few tenths of fever. In this case the risk of suffering cardiac pathologies or asthma is multiplied, while it can cause damage to the liver and kidneys.

Fever as an antibody

The Spanish Association of Pediatrics itself has warned about the risks involved in excessive medication for children’s health. Also, last June a voluminous meta-study was published in The Lancet , funded by the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom, which concluded that excessive medication of ibuprofen raises the risk of suffering a heart attack to three per thousand. When it is only a few tenths above the normal body temperature, fever plays an antibody role against infections, so trying to eliminate it with drugs could worsen the child’s disease. The authors of the research conclude that an analgesic should only be administered to avoid risks and improve the effectiveness of the treatment, instead of combining them as it is popularly done.

“Pediatricians should educate parents to understand that fever, when it is not very high, is not bad by itself if the child is healthy . It is not a disease, but a physiological defense mechanism that has beneficial effects when it comes to fighting infections, “the authors conclude in the conclusions of the study.

There are different brands in the market indicated to different age groups , as is the case of Dalsy, which increases the margin of error in parents who decide to self-medicate their children, because the maximum doses vary. As with most drugs, the best option is to consult the doctor before consuming them.

Alternative treatments

The consumption of analgesics in industrialized countries continues to increase “excessively”, as several UN reports have already warned in recent years. The WHO has also warned about the need to reduce its prescription to cases where they are only absolutely necessary  and recommends seeking alternative treatments when possible. Especially if there is a family history or if the patient has other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

To choose analgesics in the most appropriate way, experts offer two key tips to be considered by consumers. The first is that people with chronic pain, who can not stop taking painkillers, reduce the dose as much as possible and the duration of treatment . The second advice is that, in case of counting other risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases (smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol) a medical evaluation is requested to determine the risks of the consumption of this type of drugs based on the clinical history personal and family.

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