Thursday, September 19, 2013

Babies given Calpol just once a month 'are five times as likely to develop asthma'

This sounds like a plausible alternative to the discredited hygeine hypothesis.  Modern homes are not only cleaner but also more likely to use pharmaceuticals.  Proper caution about the direction of the causal arrow is however expressed below

Children who are given Calpol are far more likely to develop asthma, a major study has found.  Those given the medicine once a month are five times more at risk while even having it just once a year increases the chances by 70 per cent.

Over the past 50 years the number of children developing asthma in Britain has more than doubled but experts are divided over the causes.

Around 1.1 million youngsters now have the condition – in addition to 4.3 million adults – and it leads to 1,400 deaths every year.

Researchers who studied 20,743 children say there is now growing evidence that the increasing rates may be linked to paracetamol – the main ingredient in Calpol.

The drug is the most popular painkiller in Britain and 84 per cent of babies are given it for pain and fever within the first six months of their life.

Although the NHS advises on what doses parents should give children depending on their age, there are no warnings concerning possible health risks.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, academics from the University of A Coruna in northern Spain questioned the parents of 10,371 children aged six and seven and 10,372 aged 13 and 14.

All were asked whether the children had asthma – and if so, how severe – and how often they had been given paracetamol within the previous year and when they were babies.

Those in the younger age group who were given the medicine at least once a month were 5.4 more times likely to have asthma and those given it just once a year were 70 per cent more at risk.

Children who had a dose of the medicine at any time before their first birthday were 60 per cent more at risk, according to the findings published in the European Journal of Public Health.

The study also found that 13 and 14-year-olds were 40 per cent more likely to have asthma if they had taken paracetamol within the previous 12 months.

If they took the drug at least once a month they were 2.5 times more at risk.

The academics say paracetamol may reduce levels of a chemical called glutathione in the lungs and blood, which results in damage to the lung tissue.

A spokesman from the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, the drugs’ watchdog, said it was ‘carefully reviewing’ the data and would consider whether to take any action.

Malayka Rahman, research analyst at Asthma UK, said previous studies had suggested there may be a link between giving children paracetamol and an increase in their risk of asthma and other allergic conditions.

‘We would be keen to see more research to establish whether or not there is a causal link as it’s vital to ensure appropriate advice is given to people who are living with the condition,’ she said.

Dr Martin Scurr, the Mail’s medical expert and a GP in London, said it was too early to draw firm conclusions but more work needed to be done.  ‘It could be that children with asthma are more likely to get coughs and colds and then are given Calpol by their mothers,’ he said.

‘At the moment Calpol is the best we have – and it’s all we have so there is no reason to stop using it.’

Parents are advised to give children Calpol up until the age of 12 when they can start taking standard paracetamol tablets.

Calpol is manufactured by Johnson and Johnson and 12 million bottles are sold in the UK every year. No one was available for comment at the firm.


Why speaking a second language can make you brainier: Bilinguals have 'better memories and problem solving abilities'

This could well be so, particularly if both languages were learned from early childhood on.  The brain is highly malleable at that age

People who can switch between two languages seamlessly have a higher level of mental flexibility than monolinguals, research suggests. Researchers believe bilingualism strengthens the brain's executive functions, such as its working memory and ability to multitask and problem solve.

The psychologists think that as fluent bilinguals seem to use both languages at all times but rarely use words unintentionally, they have control of both languages simultaneously.

Judith Kroll, professor of psychology, linguistics and women's studies at Penn State University, said: 'Not only is bilingualism not bad for you, it may be really good.

'When you're switching languages all the time it strengthens your mental muscle and your executive function becomes enhanced.'
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, found fluent bilinguals have both languages 'active' at the same time, whether they are consciously using them or not.

Pointing to bilingual people's ability to rarely say a word in the unintended language, the researchers believe they have the ability to control both languages to select the one they want to use without consciously thinking about it.

Linguistic researchers at the university conducted two separate but related experiments to explore bilingualism.

They studied 27 Spanish-English bilinguals reading 512 sentences in alternating languages who were instructed to read the text silently until they came to words written in red at which point they read them out loud as quickly and as accurately as possible.

About half the words written in red were cognates - words that look and sound similar in both languages - and were processed more quickly than other words, according to Jason Gullifer, a graduate student in psychology who was involved with the study.

He said the experiment suggests both languages are active at the same time.

The participants took part in a similar study but this time read the sentences in one language at a time.  The scientists said the results were similar to the first, suggesting the context does not influence word recognition.

Mr Gullifer said: 'The context of the experiment didn't seem to matter. If you look at bilinguals there seems to be some kind of mechanistic control.'


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