The Scary Health Rant: An Acetaminophen-Asthma Link, Breastfeeding, and The H1N1 Shot
Acetaminophen and Asthma
And they wonder why some parents are reluctant to give their kids the swine flu vaccine...
After more than 20 years of being told to give children acetaminophen for fevers, sore throats and aches and pains we're now told that that very same drug may be linked to a higher risk of developing asthma. And that it could, in fact, possibly be the main reason for the huge increase in asthma rates in recent years.
And we're not just talking about the results of one study here, we're talking about 19 different studies, involving 425,000 subjects.
According to Mark FitzGerald, the UBC professor of respiratory medicine who co-authored the review looking at the results of 19 earlier studies, the results showed a clear cause and effect relationship between the use of acetaminophen (more commonly known by its brand name, Tylenol) and asthma: lower doses of the drug were associated with decreased risk and higher doses with an increased risk.
Although he went on, in the accepted and expected professorial manner, to qualify everything by stating that "This is not the kind of study that can establish cause and effect", the results of the studies seem quite clear. After all, every one of the 19 studies showed the exact same result.
As he points out, over the past two decades there has been a puzzling rise in asthma rates worldwide and it was, perhaps not coincidentally, about 20 years ago now that doctors started to recommend the use of acetaminophen instead of aspirin to treat children: "There was a change in practice and in the succeeding 20 years or so the prevalence of asthma has increased also".
And if something as seemingly innocuous and commonly used as acetaminophen can possibly be contributing to, if not causing, a significant rise in a condition as serious and widespread as asthma, then should we really be blindly trusting every other new drug and/or vaccine that doctors assure us to be safe?
More importantly, should we really be in a rush to test it out on our kids?
Let me be clear here, I'm not against the idea of people getting the H1N1 shot. In fact, I think those with weakened immune systems and underlying medical conditions should most definitely get it.
However, I am a bit nervous about giving my young son a brand new vaccine that has only been in existence for a few short months now (even if it is based on the same process and technology as the annual flu shots).
Obviously there are no immediate dangers or they wouldn't be using it, but it's important to keep in mind the fact that dozens of other drugs that have been pulled over the years also seemed safe at first.
I come by my reluctance to blindly trust the medical profession naturally. I was born into a world - a world called the 1960s - where the extremely messed-up, common-sense-lacking Canadian medical establishment was telling women, my mom included, that breastfeeding was a bad idea and that if you wanted your children to be truly healthy then you should be feeding them baby formula instead.
Well, we all know what an absolute load of nonsense that was, but millions of women believed it at the time because, well, the medical establishment had spoken and they must know what they're talking about, right?
Luckily my mom was one of the 30% or so of Canadian women at the time who used their common sense and ignored the illogical ravings of the medical practitioners of the day.
Have We Ever Steered You Wrong Before?
From leeches to bloodletting to eugenics to the promotion of baby formula over breastfeeding, the medical establishment has unintentionally pushed all sorts of nonsense on the public over the years, always with the exact same confidence that what they were doing was absolutely correct. But it wasn't.
The key word in that last paragraph, however, is "unintentionally". Because I'm in no way suggesting that the medical establishment has ever intentionally steered the public astray. But I am suggesting that they often get things totally wrong.
The point being that it shouldn't be such a surprise that so many parents are reluctant to give their kids a brand new vaccine that has just arrived out of an extremely short testing process. The fact is no one knows whether there could be unforeseen side effects down the line.
The list of drugs that have had to be recalled due to dangerous unforeseen side-effects is extremely long. From thalidomide and diethylstilbestrol back in the 1960s and 1970s to lumiracoxib (or Prexige), rimonabant (or Accomplia) and rofecoxib (or Vioxx) in recent years, many drugs have been approved for sale, only to show their true dangerous nature a few years later.
As for vaccines, up until 1999 most vaccines contained thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative. And who would ever want to give their kids mercury, no matter how small the amount?
Then there was the pertussis (or whooping cough) whole-cell vaccine that caused quite a (relatively) high rate of adverse reactions and deaths, until it was finally replaced in the 1990s by the much-safer acellular form of the vaccine.
To Be Inoculated or Not To Be Inoculated, That Is The Question
Personally, I've had all my basic shots and so has my son. And I'm obviously aware that if it weren't for vaccines millions of people would still be dying of polio, smallpox and other horrifically deadly diseases.
My point here is not to say new vaccines or drugs are necessarily dangerous, I'm just saying that no one knows whether they are, in fact, safe or not. We only find that out a few years, or decades, down the road.
So, if some people (like myself) are a little reluctant to give their kids this new H1N1 shot, perhaps it's simply because they're conscious of recent medical history and, therefore, sensibly a little hesitant.
No one wants their son or daughter to die of swine flu, of course, but neither do they want their kids to be guinea pigs for a brand new vaccine.
Based on recent history, I'd say that those who are cautiously suspicious are much more in touch with reality than those who hold an almost religious blind trust in the medical establishment and drug companies. A blind trust that, if you ask me, can only be described as naive.
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Friday, November 13th, 2009
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