Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) Induces Hypothermia During Acute Cold Stress


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Publication Details

Author list: Govus, Andrew

Publication year: 2017

Start page: 1055

End page: 1065

Number of pages: 11

ISSN: 1173-2563

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40261-017-0560-x

View additional information: View in Web of Science


Background: Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter drug used to treat pain and fever, but it has also been shown to reduce core temperature (Tc) in the absence of fever. However, this side effect is not well examined in humans, and it is unknown if the hypothermic response to acetaminophen is exacerbated with cold exposure. Objective: To address this question, we mapped the thermoregulatory responses to acetaminophen and placebo administration during exposure to acute cold (10 °C) and thermal neutrality (25 °C). Methods: Nine healthy Caucasian males (aged 20–24 years) participated in the experiment. In a double-blind, randomised, repeated measures design, participants were passively exposed to a thermo-neutral or cold environment for 120 min, with administration of 20 mg/kg lean body mass acetaminophen or a placebo 5 min prior to exposure. Tc, skin temperature (Tsk), heart rate, and thermal sensation were measured every 10 min, and mean arterial pressure was recorded every 30 min. Data were analysed using linear mixed effects models. Differences in thermal sensation were analysed using a cumulative link mixed model. Results: Acetaminophen had no effect on Tc in a thermo-neutral environment, but significantly reduced Tc during cold exposure, compared with a placebo. Tc was lower in the acetaminophen compared with the placebo condition at each 10-min interval from 80 to 120 min into the trial (all p < 0.05). On average, Tc decreased by 0.42 ± 0.13 °C from baseline after 120 min of cold exposure (range 0.16–0.57 °C), whereas there was no change in the placebo group (0.01 ± 0.1 °C). Tsk, heart rate, thermal sensation, and mean arterial pressure were not different between conditions (p > 0.05). Conclusion: This preliminary trial suggests that acetaminophen-induced hypothermia is exacerbated during cold stress. Larger scale trials seem warranted to determine if acetaminophen administration is associated with an increased risk of accidental hypothermia, particularly in vulnerable populations such as frail elderly individuals.


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