More flu from cold remedies

Febrifuges promote the delivery of viruses and thus the infection of others

In case of fever and cold better not immediately take a drug. © SXC
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If we take cold remedies with a flu, then this can have fatal consequences for others. Because these antipyretic drugs make us even more effective virus slingshot than already. In the case of a flu epidemic, this causes up to five per cent of people worldwide to be unnecessarily infected, as Canadian researchers report. Thousands of influenza deaths would be preventable.

If we have a headache and throat, the nose starts to run and maybe even a slight fever is noticeable, then many resort to cold remedies. In particular, acetylsalicylic acid - aspirin - enjoys great popularity, but also paracetamol or ibuprofen-containing agents are often taken. We hope that this will alleviate the symptoms, so that we may still be able to go to work. Or parents administer the tablets to their sick offspring, because they want to prevent a higher fever.

Hidden antipyretic

"Even if these medicines are not taken because of the fever, most common cold remedies also contain a antipyretic component, " explain David Earn and his colleagues from the Canadian Mcasters University. Even primary care physicians often prescribe such remedies on the assumption that they do not really shorten the course of the cold, but do not hurt them either.

But that is a misconception, as the researchers emphasize. Because the increased body temperature during fever slows down the virus multiplication and is therefore a natural help against the infection - and also a further transmission of the pathogens. "Taking antipyretic drugs on the other hand increases the risk of transmission, " explain Earn and his colleagues.

Virus multiplication and infection analyzed

How big this effect can be with a flu and how this affects the population and the number of cases, the researchers have now examined more closely for the first time. For their study, the researchers started from an experiment with ferrets, which determined how strongly antipyretic agents affect virus replication and the release of viruses into the environment. display

They also used data from a human volunteer study that analyzed the average infection rate in contact with influenza-infected people. With these values, the researchers then fed a mathematical model, with which they calculated how the current intake of antipyretic agents on the infection rate of the total population.

A convertible enemy: Influenza viruses of the variant that triggered a worldwide pandemic in 1918. CDC

Thousands of unnecessary flu deaths

Although the researchers calculated very conservatively, the result was surprisingly clear: after all, around five percent of the annual seasonal influenza virus is accounted for by antipyretic drugs. After all, this corresponds to around 400, 000 influenza patients worldwide, who could be avoided by using fever reducers more sparingly. "Nobody likes to feel sick, but it turns out that our well-being could have been bought at the expense of others, " says Earn.

Even more dramatic could be the negative effects of the drugs when a pandemic goes around. As the researchers explain, even the great influenza pandemic of 1918 could have been partly boosted by aspirin, which had just come into being. "The widespread use of this drug could increase the severity of the disease and, consequently, death rates during the pandemic, " the researchers said.

Better home remedy and bed rest

The researchers therefore urge physicians and patients to prescribe and take antipyretic drugs only when a high fever occurs. Home remedy and bed rest make more sense against the other symptoms - especially as this prevents you from walking around as a virus spinner. If you refrain from antipyretic, not only helps your own body to win against the pathogens, you also protect others. (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2014; doi: 10.1098 / rspb.2013.2570)

(Royal Society, 22.01.2014 - NPO)