Take two aspirin? Maybe not

December 18, 1990|By Ron Kotulakand Jon Van | Ron Kotulakand Jon Van,Chicago Tribune

The old advice to "take two aspirin, go to bed and call me in the morning" may actually do cold sufferers more harm than good, a new study suggests. And aspirin substitutes such as Tylenol and Nuprin are no better, says the report in the December Journal of Infectious Diseases.

A group of Australian researchers led by Dr. Neil M. H. Graham studied 56 volunteers infected with a cold virus and fed various pain relievers or a placebo. The doctors found that all common over-the-counter pain relievers worsened some cold symptoms and suppressed some natural responses of the body's immune system.

"With both aspirin and acetaminophen, nasal blockage and swelling were enhanced," Dr. Graham said. "There were LTC indications that ibuprofen acts similarly, but the effect was not as pronounced, possibly because of a dosage effect."

Production of antibodies that fight the cold virus appeared to be dampened by the painkillers.

"This is a real effect," Dr. Graham said. "These findings support a report from Johns Hopkins last year that the use of acetaminophen may actually increase the duration of illness in children with chicken pox."

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