As the current already-high autism rate of 1-in-45 children continues to slowly grow, there is a growing need to discover the cause, or the many causes contributing to this epidemic. While there is likely a range of contributing factors, many agree that until we find the truth, no study or even small finding should be dismissed.
By that token a new study has brought up a surprising point for discussion and future research, showing that women who had fevers during their pregnancies are three times more likely to have children on the autism spectrum.
The study, published this month by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, studied almost 100,000 children in Norway. Roughly 16% of these children were born from mothers who experienced fever during their pregnancies.
In this group, there were 583 cases of autism; in total about 3.71% of women who had a fever during pregnancy had a child with autism.
The risk of autism, however, increased if the mother had one fever of at least 99 degrees during the second trimester.
If the mother had multiple fevers after the twelfth week of pregnancy, the risk of giving birth to a child with autism increased by over 300%.
While a 99 degree fever may not seem strikingly high at first glance, it’s worth noting that Norwegian mothers have likely taken their temperature with a thermometer under the armpit, which is why in some European countries a normal temperature is generally lower — 36.6 degrees Celsius or 97.8 Fahrenheit.
What is considered to be a normal temperature in the U.S. — 98.6 F, or 37 C, many find to be abnormal when taken under the armpit. A 99 F or 37.2 C could be a low-grade fever in some parts of Europe.
The study found that women who took ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory) to fight these fevers did not have children with autism (an different result than taking acetaminophen, which increased autism risk in one study), although the sample size of this group of women was too small to draw a conclusion.
The biggest take-away from this study is as follows: preventing infections as well as inflammatory responses is important in preventing a contributing factor to autism.
“Maternal exposure to second-trimester fever was associated with increased autism spectrum disorder risk,” the study’s research team wrote.
If fever is a contributor to autism, aside from the thimerosal-discussion, can vaccinations add to the risk of autism simply because one of the potential side effects is fever?
Fever as a Side Effect of Vaccinations and Autism Risk
Pregnant women are recommended by the CDC the following vaccinations: whooping cough (Pertussis) and a flu shot, plus additional vaccines based on health history.
For pregnant women, the whooping cough vaccination is recommended during the third trimester of their pregnancy.
The first concern is that it is given roughly around the time the baby’s brain is developing very rapidly, at 28 weeks and after.
The vaccine also is not a guaranteed protection – it works against whooping cough about 70% of the time; 30% percent of those vaccinated can still get whooping cough.
Another issue is that it is impossible to get just the whooping cough vaccine in the U.S.
The whooping cough vaccine is only given together with Tetanus, and Diphtheria (both rare in the U.S.), and it is called Tdap. While a mother might not need or want a vaccine against the other two diseases, a single whooping cough vaccine is not available.
This combination of vaccines is capable of causing fever at surprisingly rates.
While these are not necessarily huge numbers, if further research confirms that fever during pregnancy contributes to the factors leading to autism, the risk of fever through vaccination is a potential complication that should be further studied.
Finally, in looking at different Tdap and flu vaccines on the market, it’s worth noting that some have never been studied for the use of pregnant women.
Adacel by Sanofi Pasteur states: “Safety and effectiveness of Adael vaccine has not been evaluated for pregnant women.”
Boostix by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals has the same warning.
Some flu shots have not been evaluated for prenatal use either, yet the CDC recommends them for pregnant women.
For Fluarix Trivalent, Flucelvax (Quadrivalent), FluMist Quadrivalent, Fluvirin, Fluzone Quadrivalent, and FluLaval Quadrivalent, safety has not been established for pregnant women.
While Afluria (a flu vaccine) researched its prenatal use, its insert recommends to be closely monitored by a specialist if vaccinated. It also has not been evaluated on nursing mothers.
It’s this cocktail of ingredients that may be responsible for the fever and other side effects.
While fever might be a contributing factor to autism, women have been getting fevers while pregnant all the time, and the autism rates were lower, so it’s clearly not the only factor.
Perhaps, it’s because of the toxic overload on our bodies from our environment that makes fever a risk – putting the body over the limit of its capabilities.
At any rate, further research should be done, and will hopefully shed more light on this growing problem in the years to come.