New research has shown that standard over-the-counter flu medications are leading to increased influenza infection and death rates. The usual flu remedies seem to have more surprising dangers that anyone had initially thought. Common ingredients like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are working against the body’s natural immunities and are causing more widespread issues. While they may provide some relief, that relief has been shown to lead to an increase in infection rates.
Lead author of the recent influenza treatment study and Investigator at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, David Earn, released a statement about the dangers of common over-the-counter cold and flu medication ingredients like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. According to Earn, the human body may actually already be doing the best job on its own. While the fever that typically comes standard with most flu infections may be uncomfortable, it does in fact serve a purpose.
According to Earn, the body creates high temperatures in order to fight against the virus within the body. By reducing the body’s temperature, viruses linger for longer and increase the risk of transmission (and therefore the rate of infection spread). This means that despite the relief, the virus actually sticks around for much longer.
While it may seem like a minor inconvenience to spread the virus to colleagues and friends, Earn warns that the issue does become significant when considered in a wider scale. He estimates that the use of fever-reducing medicine increases the rate of infection by five percent per year just within North America. Considering the amount of the population that is particularly susceptible to complication risks, he estimates that this increase causes around 1,000 addition deaths per year across the continent.
On top of fighting against the body’s natural defenses, these over-the-counter medications also make sick people feel better- and this is a bad thing! People often rely on these medications to help them continue on with life as usual. The end result of this is that their bodies’ temperature is reduced so they often make resting a lower priority and are considerably more likely to venture out in public.
While Earn’s press release may cause some to question the value of over-the-counter cold and flu remedies, he warns that they are still a good option for some people sometimes. He says that people should discuss their individual needs with their doctors and continue to take fever-reducing medications as necessary.
According to Earn, the most important takeaway message is simply transmission awareness. On average, adults spend about three weeks per year suffering from cold and flu viruses. While people are routinely reminded to stay home when they are sick, that is simply more time off than most people have available.
Physicians recommend that people stay home during the initial stages of illness, when the sickness is most contagious. This is particularly important for people who work with children and seniors, who are particularly vulnerable to the more serious side effects of cold and flu viruses.
By Nicci Mende