Just say “NO” to Tylenol (Acetaminophen linked to autism?)

Just say “NO” to Tylenol (Acetaminophen linked to autism?)

Update from Dr. Erika:  I want parents to understand that this article is not meant to place blame, or to make parents feel guilty in any way for giving their children Tylenol.  I also want parents to understand that development of autistic spectrum disorder is a multifactorial process.  There is no “one” trigger for autism.  Rather, it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of autism.  Tylenol is only one of these factors.  If your child has autism and this article is going to be a trigger for you please feel free to stop reading, close out your browser, and take a moment to hug your child.  

The problem with Tylenol

Many of the parents in my practice have now heard “Dr. Erika’s Tylenol Rant.”  Tylenol (acetaminophen or paracetamol) is probably my least favorite pharmaceutical.  That’s saying something, coming from a naturopathic physician who rarely prescribes any pharmaceutical at all.

Earlier I posted an article that was published in the Missoulian’s opinion section about vaccines and autism (“It’s time to move beyond the autism/vaccine debate“). I got a lot of hate mail for that one, simply because I stated that we need to do research about other things that may cause autism, not just vaccines. (By the way, if you want to hear an unbiased perspective about vaccines and vaccine education, I highly recommend signing up for my vaccine class.  It covers all the data about vaccines and autism, why they may be linked or may not be linked and what we should do about it.)

But here is Dr. Erika’s prediction: given what we know about the genetics involved in autism, over the next few years we should see more and more data linking acetaminophen use to ASD (autistic spectrum disorder).

Okay, so lets back-track.

It all starts with glutathione.

Glutathione is the body’s most important endogenous antioxidant.  Endogenous means that the body produces it (unlike antioxidants from chocolate, red wine or berries, for example).  I’m sure you’ve heard of antioxidants – but let’s go over a bit of the biochemistry so you understand why they are so important.

“Oxidation” is a normal process in the body that happens when we use oxygen to create energy for the cell.  The byproduct of oxidation is the creation of “free radicals” which are unstable molecules.  Free radicals are “bad” because they can damage cell DNA, potentially causing permanent mutations.  The body uses anti-oxidants to “scavenge” free radicals, neutralizing them so they can’t damage the DNA or any other part of the cell.

Glutathione is a sulfur-containing molecule that can absorb the impact of many of these free radicals.  Once it absorbs a free-radical it needs to be converted back to the active form.  (Bear with me, I’m getting to the point soon, I promise.)  When the body takes a large oxidative “hit” it causes the depletion of active glutathione.  The result is lots and lots and lots of oxidative damage.

Glutathione is especially important because it is active in the brain, unlike most other antioxidants.  Can you imagine what would happen if you deplete glutathione in the brain?  You end up with oxidative damage, inflammation and brain injury.

So guess what pharmaceutical is known for depleting glutathione? 

You guessed it, acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Tylenol is actually somewhat famous for depleting glutathione.  Tylenol overdoses (which occur at remarkably low doses compared to other pharmaceuticals, by the way) cause massive liver damage.  I mentioned this earlier in my “don’t suppress a fever (and why I don’t like Tylenol)” post.  It has to do with the way it is processed in the liver – the chemical it is converted to requires a HUGE amount of glutathione to make it less toxic.  Acetaminophen, in fact, is the number 1 cause of liver failure in the U.K., and the 2nd most common cause in the U.S.  Read the rest of my “don’t suppress a fever” post for more information.

Back to autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (I’ll abbreviate ASD from now on).  At this point there is quite a bit of data about glutathione and ASD – to the point where glutathione levels and enzymes involved in glutathione production could actually predict ASD.It makes a lot of sense, actually, given what we know about oxidative damage in the brain. Many children with ASD have poor transsulfuration and methylation – they can’t make glutathione and even worse, they can’t activate many neurotransmitters in the brain.

Tylenol + the wrong genes = a bad combination.

So this is why Tylenol could possibly trigger autism in kids who are genetically susceptible.  Please understand me on this one – not every child who gets Tylenol will get autism.  And not every child who has the gene and gets Tylenol will get autism!  I believe that developing ASD is a combination of genes and environmental insult – basically you must be genetically predisposed and then be exposed to a multitude of things that deplete glutathione. (This is probably why vinyl flooring has been linked to autism – detoxfying the phthalates depletes glutathione too.)

I want you guys to understand that this isn’t just Crazy Dr. Erika’s hypothesis (though I’ve been suspecting it for years).  Now there is new research that prenatal and perinatal exposure to acetaminophen is linked to autism.  (Thanks to one of my readers for finding that study!) There is also research that using Tylenol after the MMR vaccine may cause autism.

So here’s the bottom line: AVOID acetaminophen.  Do not give acetaminophen before or after your child’s vaccinations.  Not only can it trigger autism, it is also linked to a decreased immune response to the vaccine. If your child has had a bad vaccine reaction with or without Tylenol use please see my other blog post What To Do If Your Child Has A Vaccine Reaction. 

“So should I just give my baby ibuprofen, then?”

So I know the next question you are going to ask: “so should I just give my baby ibuprofen, then?” Well…maybe?

Some physicians have concerns that ibuprofen and other NSAIDS can cause kidney damage.  This is well documented, but whether that applies to the low doses given to children is yet to be seen.  Here is the bottom line: avoid pain-relievers whenever possible.  Never assume that your baby’s crankiness is due to pain – try other remedies to soothe him/her first, use the drugs as a last resort.  I always like to try Lemon balm glycerite with Annika first – it is a very mild calming herb that is incredibly safe.  When used during a cold/flu it has the added benefit of being antiviral. 

What are your experiences with Tylenol?  Please comment below!

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photo credit: Eric C Bryan via photopin creative commons license

Erika Krumbeck, ND, FABNP
Erika Krumbeck

Dr. Erika Krumbeck is the proud founder and editor of, the leading internet source for trustworthy natural health information for children and naturopathic pediatric providers. She is also the owner of Montana Whole Health, a primary care naturopathic practice in Missoula, MT. She is one of few doctors with the FABNP designation, meaning she is a board-certified pediatric naturopathic physician. Dr. Krumbeck has specialized training in treating chronic conditions in children using safe, gentle and effective natural remedies. She helps bridge the gap between conventional medicine and complementary/alternative medicine by using both new research and traditional naturopathic therapies to guide treatment.


  • Avatar
    January 18, 2017 at 5:35 am

    I normally don’t like to use acetaminophen but Ive used it for my little one when he was teething for a few days and when he was sick with fever…this makes me really worried .

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    December 20, 2016 at 10:49 pm
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    December 20, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Dr Erika,

    Can you help me understand what level of risk i’m looking at for tylenol usage in terms of my infant son (that i took while pregnant and that baby took at 1.5 mo old?)? and what I can do about it to lessen the damage for him and increase glutathione for him?

    1) i had major surgery during pregnancy at around 14/15 weeks (i know, cringe, but not doing it would have been worse), and i was on morphine on day one, then tylenol (minimum dosage i could get away with, but around the clock) for about 5 days after the surgery
    2) after a non-medicated birth (up to the point of birth, then needed a bit to control hemorrhaging and fix 3rd degree tears), i needed norco (which contains tylenol) for 3-4 days, then took only tylenol for about a week (again, the minimum dosage i could get away with, which was a bit lower than the dosage on the bottle) for a week. breastfeeding the whole time.
    3) baby had a frenectomy and we administered tylenol (meaning a bit lower than dosage for his weight range, 6-8 hrs apart) for 4.5 days. breastfed (mostly via bottle, some nursing during this time). he was 1.5 mo old

    these are the 3 times he was exposed to tylenol. he is exclusively breastfeed (mostly nursing) and almost 5 mo now. unvaccinated/ no shots except for vit k (and eye ointment) at birth. the only other ‘meds’ he has been exposed to after birth are tongue tie remedy homeopathic drops, and a tiny bit of baby orajel natural (supposed to be homeopathic too i think).

    how do these exposures compare? how dangerous is it for him to be exposed to tylenol during these times? please let me know if there’s anything i can do to help him!

    also, do you know anything about epsom salt detoxing while nursing? i took some baths after birth to help with healing…and wonder if i could have detoxed into him via breastmilk?

    any info/advice greatly appreciated! thanks!

  • Avatar
    November 7, 2016 at 3:40 am

    My son “came down” with autism at 3 1/2 -4 yrs old after uncontrolled seizures since 10 months old. His longest seizure…40 minutes…was in reaction to an MMR vaccine. For over a year we were told that he had febrile seizures even though he had a high chance of epilepsy once he’d had his 2nd seizure…so we were keeping his seizures at bay, giving him Tylenol according to the prescribed dose…giving him cold medicine that his dr said to use cause he was sick with asthma, cold medicine that is now considered unsafe for children… I have done everything to protect my son and I have worried about what I could have done differently…I had him under medical care since 2 wks pregnant…and I don’t want to hear another damn thing about what could have caused my son to be permanently disabled without giving me a solution in how I can help him now! My son slipped away from me 20 years ago…and I mourn that loss everyday. This article mentions antibodies…well then how can we heal, reverse that if it’s that simple? Don’t tell me another possible blame for what happened without any solution…that is of no use to our present circumstances. Be helpful… please…these families need help, real solutions…in addition to compassion and understanding.

    • erikakrumbeck
      November 7, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      Hi Christa,

      Please, please, please do not blame yourself! I really, REALLY want patients to understand that autism has many factors involved. ONE of these factors is Tylenol use. Some research shows that kids with autism have brain changes as early as 20 weeks gestation. Autism is a combination of genetic and environmental factors, this we know. (Again, Tylenol is only one piece of that puzzle.) Many autistic children have seizures, which makes me guess that he was already highly susceptible well before Tylenol was ever in play.

      You’ll see in the comments section in my other blog post about fevers that I absolutely defend the use of Tylenol when it comes to febrile seizures. At this point we know that febrile seizures aren’t dangerous, but they are absolutely terrifying for parents. I recommend Ibuprofen use over Tylenol, now, but Tylenol is sometimes the only option.

      The point of this article is to caution parents against over-use of Tylenol, I apologize if it is offensive to you or makes it feel like we are blaming parents. That is NOT my goal.

  • Avatar
    September 9, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Autism isn’t ‘triggered’, as though it’s just lurking in the background, waiting to ‘happen’. It’s an event related issue, and is neurological damage, usually associated with other physical conditions (since the nervous system is part of the body, of course). While other factors may be influencing autism, vaccines are the number one obvious variable in the equation. Injection of known neurotoxins into the bloodstream, when the blood brain barrier is completely vulnerable (the earlier the better, right?), is frankly a no brainer. And none of the ingredients listed in vaccines are proven safe; many are proven unsafe for ingestion or inhalation. The body never experiences disease through injection in the natural world-only via vaccines does the body deal with such a phenomena.

    I found this article looking for a post to share about not using acetaminophen after vaccination. Still hard to fathom how people are defending vaccines and wanting to move ‘beyond’ the discussion. Sure, maybe GMOs are a problem, or pesticides. Or chemtrails. But the idea that injecting any of this stuff [some vaccines contain GMO material], is just heretical and/or too much of the focus? We could remove the vaccine variable from the list of causes, by no longer vaccinating, and then we’d see pretty quickly if there are other factors playing a prevalent role.

    In the meantime, the attempts to imply autism is somehow related to faulty genetics is a distraction, and words like ‘triggered’ reinforce the idea that some people just have a predisposition to autism. Some people may have a predisposition to being injured by poisons and neurotoxins, true. But even that discussion is a sidetrack to the main issue: Who is poison actually good for to begin with? Considering that Autism and many other issues (ADHD, deadly food allergies, autoimmune disorders, etc) are mainly found in the USA and only in the last several decades, I’d say the genetic and/or non vaccine issues are very much distractions. The USA gives the most vaccines in the world. And there are still countries without autism or deadly food allergies or adhd or…..

    • Avatar
      Vicky Kumar
      December 28, 2016 at 6:38 am

      To Laurie: Genetics is more than a distraction. It is fraud. Blaming genes is always safer because genes don’t sue you for libel. And it is often more profitable for autism researchers/companies.

      When a drunk driver hits a pedestrian, we don’t say that his car was (“genetically,” i.e., “by design”) predisposed to accident and the driver provided the trigger. We simply say that the driver caused the accident. Why? Because how we describe the causes of car accidents and autism is strongly influenced by marketing folks (through media). This language trap is so bad that even people who don’t believe in genetic causes of autism are sometimes forced to use the language of genes so as not to appear too radical.

      You may like to read the book : “The Missing Gene” by Jay Joseph. The book debunks the myth of the genetic causes of autism.

    • Avatar
      October 31, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      So if we have given our child Tylenol in the past, how can we restore glutathione?

  • Avatar
    Taylor Ward
    July 4, 2016 at 12:50 am

    New study on the link between autism and tylenol :

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    Lucas (Jacob's Papa)
    November 18, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Dr. Krumbeck – Would you suggest (in theory) giving a 15 pound baby (1 year old) a drop or two of liposomal glutahthione if we have broken down and given him tylenol to make him more comfortable with fever/teething? Any reason why this would likely be a bad idea? We have ordered the lemon balm, amber necklace and teething tablets, but he’s struggling right now and we already gave him tylenol (2 small doses in 24 hours).

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    September 18, 2015 at 4:02 am

    Hi, Dr. Erika:
    My daughter will get her 2 months old vaccinations next week. Is it safe to give her VacciShield or is she too young to use it? What’s the recommended age to start with it? Thank you.

      • Avatar
        November 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm

        Hi Dr. Erika,
        I just stumbled across this page and post – the vaccishield website says it’s safe to use vaccishield in infants, and my husband and I have given it to our son at two months and three months around his vaccines. I’m wondering if something has changed or should we wait until he’s six months old? I appreciate your thoughts and thank you for all you do!

  • Avatar
    July 29, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Hi I linked to here on my blog, hope that’s ok, I just started my blog today. Please drop by and tell me what you think sometime on my gut health and autism article

    I use vaccishield you recommend for my son with jabs, so far so good…

  • Avatar
    June 29, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I have a 6 month old who upon giving Tylenol to, gets fussier. I have used Tylenol just a few times for fever due to vaccinations or illness. She is just now old enough to start using infant motrin and has not had the same reaction to motrin. She will scream herself to sleep upon taking Tylenol. It took me a few times to link the behavior to the Tylenol, but I am convensed its that. I might add that I did not give birth to her, we brought her home from the hospital due to her and her mother testing positive for meth. We have not had any health issues other than a very sensitive stomach. Weston Price’s homemade formula has been the only thing that she has tolerated. Is this reaction to Tylenol a warning sign for anything?

  • Avatar
    June 4, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Hi. My baby (6 months old) is going to have a frenectomy done soon. I am looking into Rescue Remedy, but I think that’s just for a calming effect. Would this product be a good alternative option for pain post surgery? If so, I’m not sure what to buy. I usually shop on Amazon, but I’m not sure what to purchase if anything listed there. Thanks!

    • Avatar
      June 4, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Sorry if I was unclear. I meant would lemon balm glycerite be a good alternative to Tylenol for pain post surgery and if so, do you recommend a certain brand/where to buy?

        • Avatar
          June 13, 2015 at 7:06 pm

          Everyone keeps saying that, but it was indeed painful. My 6 month old had the laser revision done yesterday (upper lip and under tongue). They actually pushed the idea of using laughing gas due to her age. We agreed, but it seemed to bring little relief. I administered Motrin (infant Motrin, dye-free) after the procedure. It seemed like too little too late. I did give her a couple of drops of Rescue Remedy for Kids beforehand, but there were no clear dosing instructions so I did only like 2 drops. It didn’t appear to do anything. We’ve continued to give her Motrin since the procedure. The paperwork from the dentist’s office suggested Tylenol and said feel free to use other things like Hyland’s teething gel (probably for the stretches). Well, she appears to be dairy-sensitive so I avoided a lot of teething tablet products like arnica tablets because of the lactose. I am just now discovering a lactose-free product I ordered, but it will take a couple of days to get here. I will ask my spouse if he can look for it in the store, but I don’t know if they carry it. I know many of the babies the dentist sees are younger so they cannot take Motrin. It makes sense they would tell people to use Tylenol.

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    April 19, 2015 at 3:01 pm
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    February 5, 2015 at 2:00 am

    I am a mother to a five year old little girl who has autism. Honestly, I think very negatively of the fact that people, professional or otherwise, continue to investigate these ideas. I feel that you are using your credentials to mislead people as well. You clearly state on here that the information you present should be done under the supervision of a competent physician and on the same page refer to yourself as one.

    Your site says you are an expert on vaccines and yet your doctorate is in natropathic medicine. Not immunology. Not epidemiology. But you feel qualified to give a class on vaccines? You’re administering products to children that haven’t been tested or even guaranteed? I cannot even believe parents are agreeing to let you do it. That is very unethical. It is also no surprise that you haven’t provided a single ink to any study that didn’t come from PubMed.

    Your site also says you are unbiased but you clearly are not. You just wish to appear that way to appeal to those on the fence. Because you are continuing to entertain the idea that there is or could be a vaccine-autism link. A theory that our society has wasted lots and lots of money and time debunking and disproving. Over and over. Autism is a disorder that was first described before Tylenol or even the MMR vaccine were being used. Furthermore, if you truly believe it is a combination of genetics and environment, then you must realize that it isn’t going to ever be completely eradicated. Whether the environmental “toxin” is Tylenol, vaccines, flooring, fluoride, etc….we will never completely avoid those things and so we are always going to have autistic people. Unless we raise our families in bubbles.

    Families like mine are tired of spending countless hours, shedding countless tears, and draining ourselves mentally trying to get services for our children because there is so little funding for it. My daughter recently with SIX mos without speech therapy due to inadequate health insurance. Meanwhile, we have people obsessed with unraveling her genetics so her autism can be “reversed”. What if people finally accept that this is wrong and it is what it is? THEN maybe we will start working on acceptance of people like my daughter? And start actively advising families on how to TREAT autism instead of hopefully-no guarantees-let’s try this enema reverse it? Because while “physicians” are busy studying and researching ways to fix her, she’s regressing and not getting enough therapy and it sucks.

    Just thoughts from a mother who doesn’t care why her daughter has autism and would vaccinate on a regular schedule regardless if there was a link or not.

  • Avatar
    November 29, 2014 at 8:22 am

    I gave tylenol my son for a year and a half every day without fail any day and today he has autism I’m pretty sure that’s what caused autism in my son, I am so sorry. you guys know how I clean tylenol of his body, so he is 2 years old

  • Avatar
    October 17, 2014 at 5:01 am

    Wow! This is definitely an interesting read! I have three children ages 5, 2 and 8 month old. With my first I used Tempra (acetaminophen) quite a bit for everything!!! I did’nt know much about pain relievers and did’nt know the harm I may have been causing him. With my two youngest I learned more about natural alternatives and if I had to use a pain reliever it was mostly Advil or Motrin as they seemed to work much better anyway. After reading this it dawned on me that although my son is not autistic as he has been tested he did have some characteristics of an autistic child which is why we had to go through tests for him since the age of two. We have also had teachers in the past ask if he had been tested as they as well noticed some behaviours similar to a child with Autism! He was doing great but around a yr old started to regress a bit which is around the time he was getting sick a lot and teething so he was receiving quite a bit of Tylenol. I’m now wondering if maybe this could be the answer! I rarely use Tylenol for my other children and they are developing great and ahead of schedule and I do not have any of the same concerns with them whatsoever! I could definitely see Tylenol being a key factor in the development of my first born although he is now doing great he definitely had some obstacles to overcome to get where he is today! I am thankful it worked out in the end for us but I will definitely pass this article on to friends and family so they can be informed as well! Thank-you!

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    September 7, 2014 at 10:49 pm
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    March 18, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Dr. Erika,
    Wonderful post, so informative. I have a question I hope you might be able to answer. For those that are MTHFR mutation positive, do you recommend vaccination? It seems to me it would do more damage than good.
    Thanks so much,

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