ONTD Political

Prolonged high fever during pregnancy may have some correlation with autism in children

1:27 pm - 11/13/2012
A Danish study published online today in Pediatrics is already causing concern among pregnant women -- and sparking criticism.

After NBC aired a segment about the study on "Today," questions about the methods used in the study arose as quickly as alarming headlines suggesting a link between fever or flu during pregnancy and autism.

The Danish researchers questioned mothers of almost 100,000 children born in Denmark between 1997 and 2003 about their history of infection, influenza and antibiotic use during pregnancy.

The results initially seem significant: Women who reported having the flu while pregnant were twice as likely to have kids who developed autism.

A week-long fever indicated a tripled risk. But, as the authors themselves point out, "misreporting of influenza is likely to be considerable," and "The results may be due to multiple testing; the few positive findings are potential chance findings."


Others questioned the comparisons drawn in the study: "The more comparisons you make, the more likely some difference will look important when it's not," Emily Willingham wrote for Forbes.

"[This] study is purely explorative and it is far too soon to suggest any clinical implications," HealthDay quotes study lead author Dr. Hjordis Osk Atladottir, of the Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at University of Aarhus. "Indeed, the study shows that around 99 percent of women experiencing influenza, fever or taking antibiotics during pregnancy do not have children with autism."

Other recent studies have had mixed findings: a Swedish study found no link between infections and autism, although a study from the U.S. found that women who had fevers while pregnant were twice as likely to have a child with autism or a developmental disorder, and another Danish study showed an association between hospital visits in the first trimester and autism.


While the results of the study may be speculative, advice seems to be consistent on one front: if you're pregnant, get a flu shot.

source: Discovery News
chaya 13th-Nov-2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
Isn't this old news?
fenris_lorsrai 13th-Nov-2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
It's a different study this time around that's sent people into a tizzy. It's adding to the pile of studies indicating it MAY be a factor, but not actually at the "yes, definitely" stage yet.

But it freaked people right the fuck out all over again.
thecityofdis 13th-Nov-2012 08:46 pm (UTC)
*hoards booze*

*battens hatches*

*disappears*
redstar826 13th-Nov-2012 09:41 pm (UTC)
wait! take me with you!!
thecityofdis 13th-Nov-2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
get inside! quick!
crossfire 14th-Nov-2012 06:14 am (UTC)
*pounds on doors*

*looks over shoulder in horror*

*pounds on doors harder*
liret 13th-Nov-2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
I wonder how much more likely it is that mothers whose children are autistic will have gone over everything that happened durring their pregnancy, trying to pinpoint what went wrong. Remembering when you had the flu several years on depends on if you think this is important.

Though this is also really ironic because the autism anti-vax panic has made it harder to convinve some people - especially pregnant women - to get flu shots.
lady_borg 13th-Nov-2012 09:31 pm (UTC)
YAY, more ways to scare pregnant women.

mickeym 13th-Nov-2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I had the flu in the beginning of my third trimester -- complete with fever and everything. I ended up in the hospital, in fact, for a couple of days.

My son is on the autism spectrum.

Honestly, I'm more inclined to think his autism is linked to his dad's military service, and service in the middle east during the first Iraqi war (1990-91)... but the possible connection to autism and flu/fever is interesting.
redstar826 13th-Nov-2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
if you're pregnant, get a flu shot.

honestly, I'd say everyone should do this if they can. I got busy, I forgot (horrible idea considering i work with lots and lots of adorable but germ covered children), and now it feels like my body is being eaten by bears. The flu sucks D:
violetrose 13th-Nov-2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
I got mine early. :P I was already seeing my nurse for an asthma checkup and it was included in the appointment. I find where I am they tend to to push it a lot with older people and those with health problems relating to their immune system or lungs.
skellington1 13th-Nov-2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think they've expanded the flu shot recommendation, haven't they? It used to be it was only recommended for the elderly, the immuno compromised, and people who worked with same (or with loads of small children :P), but with the recent flu scares it's pretty much "if you can, get one."
liret 14th-Nov-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
Yeah, partly because they realized the shot is least effective in the elderly and immuno-compromised - the best way to protect those people is to aim for vaccinating enough of the population to get herd immunity. Unfourtunately the legacy of the autism anti-vax cause - and the fact that they still get treated as a legitimate side of a 'debate' in the news - has left a lot of people with a vague 'Well, we can't be sure there's no risk' feeling about vaccines, so they don't think it's 'worth it' to get a vaccine for something that probabaly won't be that bad. (Which is kind of like asking yourself if it's 'worth it' to hit your breaks instead of running into the car ahead of you, because you're only going 5mph and the crash probabaly won't be that bad.)

It infuriates me that 200,000 people in the US are hospilized every year and tens of thousands die from something that we could easily make vastly less common.
skellington1 14th-Nov-2012 12:41 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah -- you don't need to preach to this choir about the selfish, harmful idiocy of the antivac movement.

I'm pretty sure the reason I've never been invited back to my BF's best friend's house is that I found out she was an anti-vaccer while we were both kinda drunk...
maynardsong 13th-Nov-2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I work with adolescents. They've got a bit more sense of how to avoid spreading germs, but still.
mutive 14th-Nov-2012 02:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'm truly puzzled by the "why should I get the flu shot brigade."

Yes, you won't necessarily get the flu just because you got the shot. And true, some of the time, you'll get it despite getting the shot (as scientists aren't magic - they're merely predicting which strain of the flu they expect will be around in the winter).

But...it still prevents a certain percentage of the cases, plus prevents you from handing it off to someone else. And one mild pin prick >>>> two weeks spent violently ill.

My work gave out free flu shots and maybe only 25% of the people in my office got one. I'm faintly disgusted by my coworkers. *sigh*
halfshellvenus 14th-Nov-2012 01:10 am (UTC)
This actually doesn't surprise me, in that one of the things you're warned against while pregnant is hot baths (to avoid overheating the baby).

Even with young infants, high fevers can have permanent effects on the brain. _High_, though, not moderate.

Because the other problem is that fevers are part of the immune system. You just have to weigh the equation of whether to let them try to kill the bacteria/virus, or whether the fever itself poses a risk. Most people actually pull the trigger too soon.

Well, if this all turns out to be a sizable factor in autism... it would help with future avoidance, and that would be good. We may be in a period of medicine where we easily survive things that previously would have killed us, and now we're seeing hidden side-effects.
mephisto5 14th-Nov-2012 10:07 am (UTC)
I do exploratory data analysis (although on air quality, not medical issues), and one of the things I'm ALWAYS wary of is happenstance correlations. Unless they've got a plausible mechanism for this, I would be extremely sceptical that it isn't due to chance or misreporting by patients.
ragnor144 14th-Nov-2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
To their credit at least one author said that this is an exploration and noted that some of it is happenstance correlations. Wider media seems to be trying to make something of it now.
ragnor144 14th-Nov-2012 10:34 pm (UTC)
It is an interesting exploration. I just dislike the quality of overall medical reporting in popular news outlets - which this article points out. I think it is clear that ASD is very complicated and that there will never be a single answer for it, but popular news takes all of the nuance out of it and goes with one sentence of a study like it is divine truth. And as we have seen with Wakefield's steaming pile of anti-vax crap, this can lead to people dying. Scientific illiteracy is a serious problem. It looks like it was well written with its limitations noted, although it is behind a paywall so I can't tell - another pet peeve.
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