In a world where pain and fever are a common affliction, sufferers (and their parents) appreciated having therapies which relieve these discomforts. Both pharma and natural medicine offer a list of substances which work to relieve pain and fever. With this list of options, most parents recognize that any therapy may have risks, even if some might be as minor as an upset stomach. This study offers new insights into the effects of several commonly used medications on the immune systems of children.
In the conventional world of pediatrics, children are given many vaccines throughout their early life with the intent of preventing several viral and bacterial diseases. Conventional medicine wants effective vaccines without significant side effects. They also don’t want anything to hinder the vaccine’s efficacy. The most commonly used therapies by parents around the time of vaccines would have to be Tylenol and ibuprofen to deal with the fever and pain side effects of the vaccines. This study evaluated whether these commonly used drugs might affect the vaccine efficacy. I have a further question that they did not consider.
The group of researchers conducted a literature review of all known studies looking at Tylenol, NSAIDS, and opioid pain meds. They highlight some important findings. One example concerns the increased risk of skin bacterial infection when children with chickenpox are given ibuprofen. Another concerns the increased risk of infection after surgery if patients receive morphine. The more broadly important recommendation advises against giving Tylenol or ibuprofen before a vaccine as the immune system is suppressed by these drugs.
They noted various studies. Some research they found suggested a 30% reduction in antibody production for these meds. One study suggested that Tylenol lowered the antibody response to pneumococcal vaccines. Another demonstrated a reduced antibody response to whooping cough vaccine and tetanus vaccine with ibuprofen.
For those reading this who want your child’s vaccines to work optimally, ibuprofen and Tylenol may not be the best options. For those of you who are avoiding vaccines, you should also think about what effect these medications may be having on your children during an acute infection. Could a dose of Tylenol or ibuprofen for that 100.4 fever make the infection last longer?
Before you make any final decisions to throw away your ibuprofen and Tylenol bottles, let me remind you that medical decisions, including simple ones like this require deliberate discernment without rushing. I am not a fan of Tylenol for other reasons, but there is a time and a place for pain and fever meds. If your child’s pain or fever are interfering with eating or sleeping or staying hydrated, a small dose may be necessary if other measures are not enough. At that point, the smallest effective dose for the shortest period of time may get them through the worst of the symptoms. For pain, you might consider some natural options instead.
Helping our adults and children patients live healthier more abundant lives requires both knowledge and wisdom to be shared with patients and parents. Knowing the full range of affects that either pharma or natural therapies have on someone is important. Discerning wisdom in how to apply that knowledge to your specific situation is critical. Educating our patients and parents so they can benefit from that knowledge and wisdom is our daily task.
Abdel Shaheed, C, Beardsley, J, Day, RO, McLachlan, AJ. Immunomodulatory effects of pharmaceutical opioids and antipyretic analgesics: Mechanisms and relevance to infection. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2022. 1- 18. doi:10.1111/bcp.15281
Thanks to Healio Pediatrics:
Are medicines affecting our response to infections like COVID-19? https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2022/03/02/are-medicines-affecting-our-response-to-infections-like-covid19.html. Published March 2, 2022. Accessed March 2, 2022.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.