Findings from a new study published in Respirology show no benefits or harms in viral or clinical outcomes for influenza patients taking over-the-counter acetaminophen.
Dr. Irene Braithwaite, co-author of the study, and colleagues theorized at first that acetaminophen might be harmful in that reducing a patient’s temperature would allow the influenza virus to better thrive and replicate. Animal studies had previously shown antipyretic treatment increased mortality from influenza.
In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 80 adults aged 18–65 years with confirmed influenza infections were treated with the maximum recommended dose of acetaminophen or placebo for 5 days. Patients’ temperature and symptom scores were monitored for 5–14 days or until time of resolution.
They found that acetaminophen was not harmful but it was not found to be beneficial either. For all study patients, there were no differences in symptom scores, temperature, time to resolution of illness and health status, with no interaction between randomized treatment and whether influenza was detected by PCR.
Dr. Braithwaite concluded that regular acetaminophen had no impact on viral shedding, temperature, or clinical symptoms in patients with confirmed influenza. There is insufficient evidence for acetaminophen use in influenza infection to make a recommendation for or against its use based on these findings, she added.
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