Let me not mislead you, for everything I am about to write about is tenuous. And yet all doctors will have a wrinkle-nosed reaction to tylenol, simply because if you overdose on the stuff, even in small amounts, you run the risk of dying a horrible death. Tylenol breaks down to NAPQI which breaks down the master antioxidant of the body, glutathione, in large amounts, and kills the liver and kidneys and brain. Who cares if it is the liver, which repairs itself at a rapid rate -- what about the lungs? Or the brain? "Real" antioxidants are more than a vitamin pill. We need to make our own.
In autism, there is an increased level of inflammation (1):
There are an increasing number of reports that anomalies in the immune system may play a role in autism. This has been found at the molecular, pathological, and epidemiological level. Altered lev- els of immunoglobulins, cytokines and inflammatory markers have been identified in the serum, cerebral spinal fluid, and autopsy brain tissues of autistic patients. Gastrointestinal inflammation in autism as well as pathological evidence of neuroinflammation involving activation of brain microglia has been shown. An increase in head circumference in autistic children, a consistent finding in autism, may involve neuroinflammation.More interesting information (and a related blog post from some time ago):
Numerous studies have attempted to measure the prevalence of autism and asthma in the population. Both asthma and autism have had a similar apparent rise in the number of cases since approximately 1980, over the past 30 years, and in both disorders these have been repeatedly referred to as ‘‘epidemics”. In autism, this apparent rise in cases is highly controversial and may be whole or in part due to increased disease awareness and/or expansion and reclassification of diagnostic criteria.
The following discussion is not intended to judge the validity of disease prevalence studies in asthma or autism; it is simply to point out interesting minor anomalies in those curves. In disease prevalence curves of both autism and asthma in the US, the sharp rise in cases began in approximately 1980. In the period from 1980 to 1990 there were two slight downturns in the slope of the curves, after 1982 and after 1986. Both curves continue markedly upward after 1988 into the 1990s. In addition, there are similar slight downturns in slopes of the curves at the same times from independent and geographically disparate studies in both asthma and autism including; asthma hospitalizations, autism cases in Minnesota, autism in north east London, and autism in an urban area in Sweden.
Four significant events related to acetaminophen use occurred between 1980 and 1990. The first was the CDC caution in 1980 concerning the relationship of aspirin to the risk of Reyes Syndrome which was followed by a public and professional warning by the United States Surgeon General regarding a possible Reyes Syndrome–aspirin association. These cautions against the use of aspirin as a fever reducer in children were largely responsible for the replacement of aspirin by acetaminophen as a pediatric antipyretic. In 1982 and again in 1986 there were product tampering cases where acetaminophen tablets were laced with cyanide resulting in eight deaths. Acetaminophen sales collapsed after each tampering event, but recovered in less than a year in each case. These dates roughly correspond to the slight downturns in asthma and autism cases.Personally, I do not give my children acetaminophen and I do not take it myself. It should be known that I think fevers come into play for a reason, to kill germs, and I do not administer medicines to my children explicitly for fever control unless the fever is dangerously high, or the children are in pain due to headache or ear infections or whatever.
The data I present here is definitely preliminary. The alternatives for fever reduction, aspirin and NSAIDS, all have downsides as well (NSAIDS can cause kidney and gut damage and aspirin can be deadly in children as well). I would just caution parents not to be too free with Tylenol. I know that many parents pre-treat their children prior to immunizations, for example, and I think that is a bad idea. Exercise prudence. That's my message, in a nutshell.
For more explanation about autism and antioxidants, please see my next post.