Paracetamol may make flu worse
Taking paracetamol may not be the best thing to do when struck with the flu.
A Wellington-based trial will test whether treating influenza with a medicine that reduces fever, such as paracetamol, makes the illness worse by prolonging the survival of viruses in the body.
The Medical Research Institute of New Zealand is leading the trial.
Eighty volunteers with early flu symptoms will be admitted to hospital and treated with either paracetamol or a placebo.
Lead investigator Dr Kyle Perrin said people forget that a fever is the body's natural response to fighting an infection.
''There is quite a lot of evidence that suggests taking paracetamol could be harmful ... and that's backed up by quite a few animal studies.''
He said overseas animal studies had found the mortality rate was about 30 per cent higher when an animal had been treated with paracetamol.
Perrin said viruses were naturally killed when the body temperature reached 38 degrees Celsius or more.
In Canterbury, 67 people have been admitted to hospital with the flu in the past two weeks.
From July 1 to 8, most district health boards had fewer than 30 confirmed influenza cases. Canterbury had 155.
The trial started last winter, but because of a mild flu season around the country, not enough information was collected, Perrin said.
''When you tell people about the body's natural response they seem to understand and the patients [in the trial] are all very comfortable with the fact that they might not be receiving paracetamol,'' he said.
''People should, of course, take paracetamol for pain, but if it's a fever and they feel OK apart from that, then the best thing is to ride it out.''
Patients taking part in the trial were monitored, and swabs were taken regularly from their nose and throat, he said.
Perrin said this was the first human trial of its kind in the world and preliminary results were expected by the end of the year.
The trial was funded by the Health Research Council.
Christchurch Hospital virologist Lance Jennings was part of the research, Perrin said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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