TUESDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Women who develop fevers while pregnant may be more than twice as likely to have a child with autism spectrum disorder or another developmental delay, a new study suggests.
Exactly how, or even if, fevers may increase the risk for autism is unknown, and experts were quick to say women should not panic if they do develop a fever while pregnant because taking fever-reducing medications cuts the risk.
One in 88 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is an umbrella term for developmental disorders that can range from mild to severe and that often affect social and communication skills. Little is known about what causes autism or precisely why rates seem to be increasing.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis asked the moms of about 1,100 kids with and without autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delays whether they had the flu or fever during their pregnancies and if they took any medications to treat these illnesses. Their findings were published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
According to the new data, moms who had a fever from any cause during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have a child with autism or another developmental delay, when compared with moms who did not run fever during pregnancy. Moms who had the flu during pregnancy were not at greater risk for having children with autism or another developmental delay.
What's more, moms who took fever-reducing medication during pregnancy had similar risks as those moms who did not run a fever during their pregnancy.
"Our study provides strong evidence that controlling fevers while pregnant may be effective in modifying the risk of having a child with autism or developmental delay," study author Dr. Ousseny Zerb
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