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.
Children given Calpol once a month are five times more at risk, while even having it just once a year increases the risk of asthma by 70 per cent
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.
PAIN RELIEF FOR CHILDREN
There are several types of liquid paracetamol aimed at children. They include:
Calpol: The most popular children’s medicine in the UK is a pink paracetamol. Comes in different forms, including sachets and fastmelts, which dissolve in a child’s mouth, and used to relieve toothache, headache, fever and teething.
Disprol: Liquids and tablets used to treat colds or flu-like symptoms for children over three months old.
Junior Parapaed: Similar pink liquid with a cherry taste that can be used in babies over two months old.
Medinol: The brand has under and over six versions. It is used to treat fever and pain.
Medised: A version of the paracetamol solution used in 6 to 12-year-olds.
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.