No Evidence That Tylenol Beneficial in Flu Infections Interview with:
Dr. Irene Braithwaite
Deputy Director
Medical Research Institute of New Zealand
Wellington NZ

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Braithwaite: We know from animal models that the reduction of fever is associated with an increased risk of dying from influenza. We also know that some influenza viruses cannot replicate well in the human febrile range (38 to 40 Celsius). Yet, guidelines on the management of community acquired influenza infection in humans is to rest, maintain hydration and to take antipyretics such as paracetamol on the basis that this may help and is unlikely to cause harm. We undertook this study to see whether using regular paracetamol during influenza infection might be harmful, as it may allow the influenza virus to replicate more readily, and increase and/or prolong symptoms.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first randomised controlled trial comparing the effects of regular paracetamol (1gram four times daily for five days) versus placebo in human adults infected with influenza. We found that there was no difference in influenza viral loads, temperature or influenza symptoms between the regular paracetamol group and placebo group.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Braithwaite: There is no evidence base for the use of paracetamol in influenza infection in adults. While paracetamol was not shown to be harmful in this study, there was no evidence that it was beneficial in that regular paracetamol did not alleviate temperature or reduce clinical symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches and fatigue when compared to placebo. Vaccination remains the best protection against influenza infection.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Braithwaite: Influenza is an illness of global health significance, and affects millions of people annually. It is imperative that further research is undertaken to ascertain the risks and benefits of routine use paracetamol and other antipyretics in the context of this and other common illnesses.


Jefferies, S., Braithwaite, I., Walker, S., Weatherall, M., Jennings, L., Luck, M., Barrett, K., Siebers, R., Blackmore, T., Beasley, R., Perrin, K. and Pi Study Group (2015), Randomized controlled trial of the effect of regular paracetamol on influenza infection. Respirology. doi: 10.1111/resp.12685

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Dr. Irene Braithwaite (2015). No Evidence That Tylenol Beneficial in Flu Infections