Are OTC Drugs Like Tylenol Linked to ADHD and ASD?

You likely see these types of warnings on the bottles in your medicine cabinet all the time, whether it’s prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication. For example, the Tylenol packaging and website warns, “If you are pregnant or nursing a baby, seek the advice of your healthcare professional before using Tylenol or any other medication.”

According to U.S. Pharmacist and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 90% of women take some types of medication during their pregnancy. A 2014 American Family Physician article reported:

In 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began reviewing all prescription and OTC medications to develop risk categories for use in pregnancy. Most OTC medications taken during pregnancy are for allergy, respiratory, gastrointestinal, or skin conditions, as well as for general analgesia. Acetaminophen, which is used by about 65% of pregnant women, is generally considered safe during any trimester. Cold medications are also commonly used and are considered safe for short-term use outside of the first trimester.

Since then, new research has suggested that medications like Tylenol may be linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Huntsville dangerous drug attorneys at Martin & Helms, P.C. discuss these risks in today’s blog.

Research suggests Tylenol may be linked to ADHD and ASD

A 2018 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that “Acetaminophen use during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for ADHD, ASD, and hyperactivity symptoms. These findings are concerning; however, results should be interpreted with caution given that the available evidence consists of observational studies and is susceptible to several potential sources of bias.”

A 2019 study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality also suggests that “exposure to acetaminophen in the womb may increase a child’s risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder.” This study was conducted by Xiobing Wang, MD., of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and colleagues.

It appears in the journal JAMA Psychiatry and involved the collection of umbilical cord blood from 996 births. Researchers measured the amount of acetaminophen and two of its byproducts in each sample. The authors concluded that their results supported earlier studies linking acetaminophen exposure prior to birth with ADHD and ASD. They also concluded that there was a need for additional research.

Various other studies suggest the link between exposure to OTC medications prior to birth and subsequent ADHD and ASD diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

The CDC describes children with ADHD as having trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors or being overly active.

Most children have trouble focusing and behaving but children with ADHD do not outgrow these behaviors. Symptoms can cause difficulty for children at school, at home, and with friends. Symptoms of ADHD may include:

  • Frequent daydreaming
  • Forgetting and losing things regularly
  • Squirming and fidgeting
  • Talking too much
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Having a tough time resisting temptation
  • Having trouble taking turns
  • Having difficulty getting along with others

You can learn about additional and more specific symptoms and diagnosis of ADHD from the CDC. Diagnosis can be made by a mental health provider, like a psychiatrist or a psychologist, or by a primary care physician, like a pediatrician.

What are the symptoms of ASD?

The CDC defines ASD as “a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with ASD often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. People with ASD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention.”

Children without ASD might also exhibit some of these characteristics. But for children with ASD, these symptoms can make everyday life incredibly challenging.

Symptoms of ASD are quite extensive and vary from case to case. Symptoms may fall into three categories:

  • Social Communication and Interaction Skills – this may include not making eye contact, not responding to name, not playing simple interactive games, not pointing, not noticing other children, and/or not pretending.
  • Restricted or Repetitive Behaviors or Interest – this may include obsessive interests, lining things up, repeating words and phrases, following certain routines, flapping of hands, rocking of body, or spinning in circles, and/or getting upset by minor changes.
  • Other characteristics include delayed language, movement, or cognitive learning skills; impulsive behaviors; seizure disorders; unusual eating and sleeping habits; gastrointestinal issues; unusual mood or emotional reactions; anxiety; and/or lack of fear or more fear than usual.

Diagnosing ASD is difficult since there is no set test for ASD. Learn more about symptoms and diagnosis of ASD from the CDC.

What to do if your child developed a condition due to prenatal exposure to OTC drugs

Several investigations of cases where children have developed conditions due to exposure to seemingly safe products are in progress. The product liability attorneys at Martin & Helms, P.C. are following these developments closely.

If you used any of the drugs listed below regularly during pregnancy, and into  the second and third trimesters, and you have a child diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, or other diagnosis such as Kanner’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), we may be able to help:

  • Generic Acetaminophen
  • NyQuil®/DayQuil®
  • Alka-Seltzer Plus®
  • Robitussin®
  • Generic Paracetamol
  • Excedrin
  • Mucinex
  • Goody’s

If you are the legal guardian of a child with one of the disorders listed, and you took one of the products listed above regularly while pregnant (into the second and third trimesters), the attorneys at Martin & Helms, P.C. want to hear your story.

All manufacturers have a duty to consumers to disclose proper safety information and health risks regarding their products. When they fail to do so and people, especially infants and children, suffer injury, they need to be held accountable. We’ll work to secure financial compensation for your injuries, losses, and pain and suffering. We’re on your side. Call our office at 256-539-1990, or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team. We have offices in Huntsville and Decatur, and serve clients in Madison, Athens, and North Alabama.