Use of antipyretics does not prolong febrile illness in children

The use of antipyretics in children to combat fever associated with an acute infection, has often been a matter of intense debate among pediatricians. While some doctors have advocated the use of antipyretics saying that lowering the temperature would help in the recovery process, others are strongly against it believing that using antipyretics interferes with the resolution of infection and in fact, prolongs the febrile illness. But what is surprising is that very few studies have been carried out to find out the truth. A meta-analysis of the literature available has shown that giving antipyretics does not interfere in any manner with the recovery process.

The research, which was carried out by Alison White, a professor of community nursing at King's College London, along with her colleagues, has been published in a recent issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers searched Medline from 1946 to Nov 2012 and EMBASE from 1980 to Nov 2012 to look for studies carried out in this direction. They found six such studies. Three of them had been carried out on children suffering from malaria while the other three dealt with general viral and respiratory infections and chickenpox. Five of the studies were considered to be appropriate for the meta-analysis.

The researchers observed that when the children were administered antipyretics, the body temperature returned to normal four hours earlier than the children who did not receive the antipyretics. However, the total time taken to recover from the illness was the same, irrespective of whether the child had received antipyretics or not.

The researchers have cautioned that the result of the study does not mean that parents should administer antipyretics to their children at the drop of the hat. It should always be remembered that every medicine has certain side-effects. Fever associated with acute illness is a normal phenomenon. And when the time taken to recover from the illness is not shortened by bringing down the fever, there is no point in administering antipyretics unless specifically directed by the physician.


Editor: Dr. Bimal Rajalingam MBBS DNB (Resp Med)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
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