Aspirin, Acetaminophen May Prolong the Flu

The above is the title of an article on the DrKoop.com web site from Dec. 06, 2000 Reuters Health Information. The article reports on research by Karen I. Plaisance, MD; Philip A. Mackowiak, MD published in the Achieves of Internal Medicine. The essence of the article states that taking aspirin or similar drugs to decrease a fever will increase the duration of the Flu.

For many years common practice was to treat the fever of a Flu by taking aspirin and reducing the fever. This new research has confirmed what chiropractors and others have been saying for years. Fever is a defense mechanism designed to help the immune system by raising body temperature.

The article was a review of several studies. In this article it was revealed that flu sufferers who took one of the anti-fever medications such as aspirin, were sick an average of 3.5 days longer than people who did not take any of the drugs.

According to coauthor, Dr. Karen I. Plaisance, "The extra sick days may be an acceptable trade-off for the relief they get from such medications". She continued, "Depending on what it is you have to get done ... you may be willing to take that. Some busy people would rather be somewhat sick for a longer time than be nearly wiped out for a shorter period."

According to the report, the investigators found that anti-fever drugs such as aspirin or Tylenol, prolonged the duration of the flu. On average, flu symptoms lasted 5.3 days in participants who did not take aspirin or acetaminophen, compared with 8.8 days in people who took the anti-fever drugs. Even an analysis that took into account the severity of illness, the use of anti-fever drugs was still linked to longer-lasting illness.

According to the authors the mechanism that links the drugs to prolonged flu symptoms is unclear. However, they do mention the possibility that reducing fever may interfere with the immune system responses to an infection. In other studies on reducing fever, similar findings were reported in cases of chickenpox.

The underlying message of these studies should suggest that interfering with the defense mechanisms of the body, such as fever, may reduce some symptoms but will prolong the time the body needs to fight off infections and illness.