01/25/2013 06:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

NSAIDs Can Cause Kidney Damage In Dehydrated Kids, Study Shows


By Alysha Reid

Giving children painkillers such as Advil and Aleve instead of Tylenol or no drugs at all can lead to serious kidney damage, according to a new study -- particularly if the children are dehydrated, a common side effect of illnesses such as flu.

Nearly three percent of cases of acute kidney injury treated at an Indianapolis hospital between 1999 and 2010 could be traced directly to the children having taken common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, according to an analysis published online today in The Journal of Pediatrics .

Researchers from Indiana University and Butler University evaluated 1,015 records of patients who were treated at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. After excluding cases when acute kidney injury could be attributed to chronic factors (such as kidney disease), they found that 27 cases were directly linked to the children having taken NSAIDs before arriving at the hospital.

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Seven of the young patients may now have permanent kidney damage. Four of the patients needed kidney dialysis. Their hospital care cost an average of $13,500. Most of the children were treated with the appropriate dosage.

The researchers expect their findings to influence doctors to recommend different treatment options.

"These cases, including some in which patients' kidney function will need to be monitored for years, as well as the cost of treatment, are quite significant, especially when you consider that alternatives are available and acute kidney injury from NSAIDs is avoidable," said Dr. Jason Misurac, a fellow in pediatric nephrology and author of the study in an Indiana University School of Medicine press release.

NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) are available over-the-counter and can treat a number of health conditions common in children, including fevers and earaches.

Vomiting and diarrhea, which can deplete the body's fluid supply, are common symptoms of illnesses such as the flu. Researchers suspect that dehydrated children may face a bigger risk of kidney damage, since NSAIDS restrict blood flow to the blood-filtering components of the kidneys.

This year's unusually severe flu season (the worst since 2009 according to the CDC), may lead to an uptick of symptoms in children.

"One alternative to NSAIDs would be acetaminophen [sold under the brand name of Tylenol], but another alternative would be no medication at all, at least for a while, to let the body fight the infection," said Dr. Misurac.

"Ibuprofen, Anti-Fever Drugs Can Cause Kidney Damage in Kids" originally appeared on Everyday Health.